I thought we’d never see this sign.
We arrived at the Atlanta airport in the early afternoon on July 1, intending to fly Delta to JFK around 5pm, but they evacuated our plane right after bumping me to first class, so we caught another plane, where I again got bumped to first class, and I worried whether we’d make it in time to board our plane to Edinburgh about 10pm and land at 10 the next morning, local time. But instead, we diverted to Rochester, sat on the ground a few hours, and then landed at JFK at 1am. God was telling me I shouldn’t have left my family back in coach.
Then we stood in separate lines several gates apart (while I sat on hold on my phone) for a few hours, trying to figure out how to get across the Atlantic, as our 3 small children sat on the floor next to all our unchecked luggage. At 5am, we took off to Heathrow in London and landed in the late afternoon local time. A couple more hours on the phone and in conversation with a British Airways gate agent, and we were heading to Edinburgh. We landed at 11:30pm and waited for a taxi outside, which was 50 degrees less than Atlanta was outside when we dressed for our flight, while I texted our Air BnB owner that we’d made it to her country and to please hide the key for us somewhere (she was threatening to go to sleep). At 1am, our taxi dropped us off at our flat; the owner left us a key with a neighbor.
We climbed to the 6th floor of our building on Royal Park Terrace by Holyrood Park, claimed our sleeping spaces, and caught 5 hours of sleep before our scheduled Sunday morning tour of Loch Ness and the Highlands that would involve 12 hours on a tour bus. We’d lost our first day, but we would make our first organized tour. We were all in Scotland for the first time for any of us–land of my paternal grandmother’s people and my bride’s paternal line. And we were going to enjoy it, dammit.
Cafe Nero provided our first local meal–coffee and more coffee–before we boarded our bus and headed north. We pulled over once we’d slipped the bonds of the city and entered the Highlands. We even talked our guide, Kenny, into posing with us for a picture.
A bit more time in the bus, and we were pulling up to Loch Ness for a trip across the black waters in search of a prehistoric beast that looked something like this:
The boat ride was interesting, fun, and relaxing at the same time. They had screens for the passengers to see sonar images of the bottom of the loch, so that we could search for signs of life in the water. The children loved it. It stopped in front of the Urquhart Castle.
The guided tour continued a bit farther, turned around, and then returned to the dock. The children bought souvenirs; I bought a beer.
Then it was back into the tour bus. Kenny warned us the roads ahead would be hilly and curvy and narrow, but he didn’t warn us that the mayo on the sandwiches we’d taken for the boat ride might have been too warm, and my youngest didn’t warn us that she’d be vomiting all over herself and her mother in the back seat of our bus.
The views were magnificent. Magical, even. Lush green towering above black rivers and lakes into a misty canopy that faded into the cloud cover above.
We stopped by a monument honoring the original Commandos (my high school’s mascot!) in 1940–the British special forces that fought in WWII. Our tour made additional stops to see more areas of natural beauty along the way –old stone bridges, water falls, mountains, and lakes–before returning to Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. It was sunny past 10pm, so we walked around town for a bit, exploring the closes that branched off the Royal Miles before returning to our quarters.
Our first day in Scotland began early and ended late, but now that I’m back from this 18-day trip to the United Kingdom and have the benefit of hindsight, I can honestly say it was one of our family’s favorite days (or perhaps most favorite!). Leaving the Atlanta heat and congestion for the wide open green spaces and cool temperatures of this area of Scotland is an activity we now want to do annually!