AS I look down on the city of Edinburgh from its world renowned castle, the views overlooking traditional architecture and the Firth of Forth are exceptional. Reaching the summit was a thrill in itself though as steep inclines and narrow roads had to be overcome before a minibus took us through a road carved into the rocks below. Upon arrival at the top, being escorted through busy crowds to see the British Isles’ oldest Crown Jewels makes me feel like royalty. With Edinburgh shrouded in so much history, we don’t leave before seeing the city’s oldest surviving building, St Margaret’s Chapel, created in 1103 as dedication to Queen Margaret herself.
Thanks to the charity Rays of Sunshine, my family and I are enjoying the perfect city break in Scotland’s capital. On our first day here we head off to Edinburgh Zoo. From the outside the entrance looks rather unspectacular, once inside though it feels like the closest thing to animals in the wild. There is a real effort to provide the exotic species on show with the right natural environment. Chimpanzees have the freedom to startle visitors upon entry, careering across bridges, and I am told Lemurs will jump on my wheelchair if they steal half a chance.
North Berwick, a quiet seaside village just North East of Edinburgh is an astonishing place. With the breathtaking coastal views I feel so near yet so far from a City. In the distance I make out a large rock jutting out of the water, at first it appears covered in snow, but as you look closer this is in fact a habitat to hundreds of White Sea Puffins.
We approach the Scottish Highland’s after driving over the magnificent Forth suspension Bridge. Rugged sloping hills dominate the landscape, and so isolated from the rest of Britain, I could have thought I was anywhere in the world. Loch Leven, in the heart of the highlands, has a Scandinavian feel.
Where we are staying for a few nights, at the lavish Waldorf Astoria – ‘The Caledonian’ hotel, staff are so attentive catering for your every need. Breakfast lives up to expectation as well. Both continental and Scottish choices are on the menu, but I decide to go for scrambled eggs infused with tender Scottish salmon from the A La Carte Menu.
Evening meals in Edinburgh’s gastronomic hub do not prove too difficult to find either. Seafood risotto at an Italian Pizzeria or cheeseburgers at an American Diner, the city’s cosmopolitan nature is encapsulated. Still, the authentic Scottish bar ‘Ryan’s’, serving up classics like Haddock and Chips is our favourite restaurant.
After a lot of travelling around the city, with even at one point my dad driving in front of a tram gathering pace behind us, our final full day in Edinburgh is much calmer. Scotland’s National Museum of Modern Art was our first stop, walking around the exhibition for Dutch artist MC Escher I get a flavour for the art which interests Scotland the most, surrealism and optical illusions. This epitomises Escher’s work throughout the 1900’s, one of his main pieces, Metamorphis, involved numerous tessellations and transformations from different shapes.
Edinburgh’s tram service forms a sophisticated public transport system, easily accessible for everyone. As it is our last day we take a tram ride to the National Museum, very different to what I envisaged. Life-size animal models from around the world offer an interactive insight into more than just Scottish heritage.
Once we have the car packed ready to make the long trip back to Hampshire, our route through the Lake District forms a memorable part of the journey. With the bright sunshine glistening on the water, Lake Windermere is a spectacular sight, only given justice through the naked eye. The Traveller’s Rest Inn, in the village of Grasmere, is an excellent place for a bite to eat. Originally a Hunters’ lodge during the 17th Century, and secluded from anywhere remotely built-up, the comforting atmosphere is what we need to break up the journey.
Travelling to Scotland can be a fantastic experience. Going by car we could admire the stunning scenery that Britain has to offer before we even arrived. If you have not been out of England before then Edinburgh is a good start as there is something for all the family, thanks to Rays of Sunshine I could experience it all. Anyone who thinks Edinburgh has lost its sell by date should think again.