When traveling, I usually try my hardest to take public transportation and then walk whenever I can, to get where I’m going. But sometimes, the only way to see a country is by hopping in a car and going on a road trip.
This one I actually took with my parents. They may have accidentally been the reason I am constantly craving travel. I was their last child to move away to college and instead of suffering from empty nest syndrome with all of their children in different states, they decided to one-up us all and move to another country.
With my parents living in England, it was the best excuse to go see Europe. After a few visits and trips with them, I can’t stop planning my trips back over there, even with them back in the states now.
So anyway, this trip through the UK starts in Scotland and finishes in England. Looking back at everything we saw in just 120 miles, it blows my mind how much history there is to see there. Let’s get to it!
If you time your trip right, you can catch the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. It takes place for 3 weeks every August. An endless scene of street acts, magicians, acrobatics, comedians, and folks who are simply dressed in crazy creative outfits, hanging out with the crowds. The Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world. With thousands of acts and almost 300 different venues to find them in, it is impossible to be bored.
When we went, we saw Michael Winslow (yes, from Police Academy) who is a master of vocal sound effects and a great comedian. Our favorite act was a dinner show called Faulty Towers. We signed up for it with very little background into what we were getting into. Turns out Faulty Towers was an English sit com about a hotel-owning couple who were pretty terrible at the job. The actors served us dinner as though we were guests in their hotel. If you ever get the chance, go see this.
If you don’t go during the Fringe, there is still so much to see and do in Edinburgh. We took a tour of the Edinburgh Castle which, like any powerful castle, sits on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the city. This castle was conquered and reclaimed several times over the years. It still serves partially as a military base, but also offers full tours of the grounds and the interior of the castle.
Probably my favorite feature of Edinburgh though, is the landscape. It actually offers those picturesque cliff sides that you see in time-period movies. I spent some time running the trails, imagining what it would have been like to walk these trails hundreds of years ago.
Leaving Edinburgh and driving south, you will find Rosslyn, home of the now famous Rosslyn Chapel. This chapel was built in 1446 and has been in the possession of the same family, the St Clair family, since its construction. The Da Vinci code book made the chapel even more popular, especially after it was featured in the movie. They are actually celebrating the 10th anniversary of the movie coming out by showing outdoor screenings of it September 23-24 at the chapel…so if you’re in the area now, maybe check it out.
Abbotsford – The home of Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott was a famous poet, novelist, and play wright. But to be honest I have never read any of his work. Regardless, his home in Scotland is something to be seen. It is now one of my life goals to sit in his gardens and around the home long enough to read Rob Roy and Waverley. You can actually stay in the rooms here – so maybe I can splurge and make that goal reality some day. When we went the estate was closed for the day, but we were still able to wander around the gardens for a while, which are just as amazing to see.
Kelso is a great stop for the night, both for timing as well as because it is just such a charming town. If I can help it, I prefer never to stay in actual hotels anymore (I can probably thank my parents again for that one). Kelso is home of the Ednam House Hotel, and while yes, it does bear the name ‘hotel’, I consider it more of a bed and breakfast. It was constructed in 1761 as the home of James Dickson. Then it was converted into a hotel in 1928. While it is about 32 rooms large, it offers all the good vibes of a B&B along with some fantastic views of the grounds.
After a refreshing night’s sleep and a tour of the town, you can walk over to the Kelso Abbey. This place dates way back to the 1100’s. It is now ruins, but was once a monastery for the monks. Even though it is not all in one piece anymore it is still said to be one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Scotland.
Now I wouldn’t send you to Kelso for the night without a castle to see, don’t worry. Your next stop is the Floors Castle. This home was built for the 1st Duke of Roxburghe in 1721. It is still an inhabited family home, but it’s doors and grounds are open to visitors. There are plenty of grounds by the way to make a day of it here, and a cafe if you get hungry.
Lindisfarne Castle, Holly Island, England
Crossing into England now on our castle themed tour, we made our way to the Lindisfarne Castle. Let’s start with what I find to be the coolest part about this castle – it is only accessible for about 5 hours a day, because when high tide comes in, the one road that leads to the castle gets covered by water and the castle grounds become an island. Seriously? Peninsula by day and island by night – how can you not want to live there?
This castle sits with all of its beauty on a hill jutting out from the water and is built about 100 feet above the sea level. Walking through the castle is like a maze, working your way through small hallways and twisty stairwells. After seeing the castle, the grounds are a sight to see as well. Just make sure you walk back out to the main road before you are stuck out there over night.
Bamburgh Castle, England
Bamburgh was my favorite of the castles. It’s construction began in 1164 and it is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country. There are endless trails for walking around, views of the beach and the castle has paths in every direction leading to more structures to see. Plus, being an old castle, it of course has ghost stories. You can read a few of the short ones on their site.
Alnwick Castle, England
And finally our last castle stop for this road trip. The Alnwick castle is beautiful. It is a little gaudy for my taste, not in terms of the castle itself, but in the tourist attractions around it. Now you can view the sets they used for the filming of some episodes of Downton Abbey and of course, see the signs for the filming of Harry Potter. This was once the site of Hogwarts in the early movies. If this is your kind of thing though, no judgement, you can go take a broom flying lesson on the grounds.
Have you taken a memorable road trip through England or Scotland? Please share!