Coming from dry and usually sweltering Southern California, stepping into wet and wild Scotland is a welcome and drastic change of scenery. My husband and I decided to hop over to Scotland on something of a whim, about two weeks before we actually left. Luckily, a portion of our plane ticket cost was reserved on points and we made it work.
Many people think that traveling with children is an insurmountable challenge, with stress dreams of toddlers screaming up and down the aisles, vomit in the air and blood on the streets. I'll admit, traveling with a toddler and a husband can be exhausting and trying on the nerves. Traveling solo with a toddler is more than exhausting; it's completely draining. Every child is different on each and every trip, so your miles may vary. I do know that once you get out and into the world you'll find that the lessons and life skills your child gathers on the road will serve them well into their future.
Here are some of the funnest things we did in Scotland
One of the biggest expenses of our trip was our rental car. Because I was in charge of driving, and because I haven't driven a manual transmission in approximately 10 years, I needed a more expensive automatic transmission car. Driving on the opposite side of the road was a bit of a challenge and I was glad to have my husband driving with me when it came to judging the distance between curbs and the other side of the car. In total, we drove nearly 1,000 miles and I truly believe that renting a car is a MUST if you plan on exploring the country. We brought our own car seat (the Cosco Scenera) for the occasion and Jenny was able to get through 90% of the driving without a fuss with the help of the Reader app.
Where We Stayed
Edinburgh: Palace Residential Edinburgh
Great self-catering option in a good location. We stayed in a studio apartment which was a little bit of a challenge since we put Jenny to sleep fairly early and then have to stay quiet.
Loch Lomond/Alexandria: Apartment Rental via Home Away
Honestly, the most beautiful place we stayed. The road into the homestead was a little treacherous, but the grounds made it completely worth it. There was a beautiful garden with a charming caretaker. The hosts themselves were lovely and very accommodating. The location was great for exploring the nearby towns and Loch Lomond has a nice shopping/aquarium complex not too far away.
Pitlochry: Apartment Rental via Home Away
Very, very charming and highly walkable town. This rental was in a fantastic location (very close to the grocery store) and it has a crockpot! I never knew I needed this until I had it. 10/10 would stay here again.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh Capital Hotel
I hardly remembered this place. We stayed here because we had to catch an early flight home and it was convenient to the rental car drop off and the airport (I think). Adequate but forgettable, though I think their breakfast was good.
What We Did
Almond Valley Heritage Centre - An absolutely adorable farm park. Their kitchen gardens were a wonder and there were tons of animals to check out as well. A playground with in-ground trampolines kept Jenny's attention and helped her make new Scottish friends.
Cairngorm Reindeer Centre - we didn't make it out to the herd because of the wet weather but the paddock/visitor center was a great experience!
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - plenty of amazing sights for the adults and the kiddo, including lots of open space to run.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival - we unexpectedly caught part of the Fringe Fest and really enjoyed it! It did contribute to a large number of people in the city though, so if you're attending in August, be warned.
Afternoon Tea at Dewars Distillery while Dad took a tour
Estates & Castles
Midhope Castle - you MUST stop at the Farm Shop first in order to purchase a pass to access the grounds. Also, the Farm Shop is AMAZING.
Hopetoun House - the tour guides inside the house were so sweet and very welcoming of our two-year-old. There's also a room near the stables that has children's activities available. Very lovely place.
Castle Menzies - a last minute stop but a scenic one, at that.
Road Trip Hot Takes
Stop at EVERY Farm Shop you can. Produce in Scotland was SO flavorful, so take advantage of it. Many of the Farm Shops had cafes and plenty of local goodies to check out.
Stop at some nurseries/garden centres and see what's available. You won't be able to take the plants back to the US but we were able to bring seeds home with us.
If you don't plan on bringing a rolling carseat caddy, bring along some bungee cords to attach it to your rolling luggage.
Many of the gas stations we filled up at did not have card readers at the pump so we had to pay inside.
Single lane roads are ubiquitous; back up and pull off to the side when someone needs to pass you.
All in all, our family spent about two weeks in Scotland and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.