With a day mostly dedicated to transit to Bielefeld, it was lovely to have dinner in the enchanting Sparrenburg Castle and meet our new extended family. It was a treat to have a view Bielefeld lit up by the evening sun.
We started our day picking fresh eggs from the chickens at our farmhouse that the kids promptly ate for breakfast. From there we headed to Clava Cairns, an ancient burial ground estimated to be 3000-4000 years old. The area was peaceful and beautifully lit with the morning sun. As we entered each tomb, we noticed the construction – choice of boulder size, height of the rock layers, and distribution in a close circle. The three tombs were separated by a few hundred feet, and each was surrounded by a circle of boulders. The light poured in and lit the boulders like a clock.
After our exploration we were ready for brunch and headed to Simpsons garden center. Unlike garden centers near our home, this was also a beautiful home goods store and restaurant that served an amazing assortment of house-made desserts and traditional Scottish breakfast foods. We were thoroughly impressed with this garden store!
Our drive back to Edinburgh took us through the gorgeous hillsides of Cairngorms National Park and a quick stop in “Killiecrankie”, a new favorite name. After returning our car, we checked into our Glampground, stored our bags, and headed back into the city for a few more moments enjoying the Fringe performers, the ferris wheel, and a super dinner at the Printing Press restaurant.
Overnight was exciting as the heavy rains made us grateful to be in a (mostly) waterproof, raised tent-pod with raised beds. The campsite is next to the airport, making it an easy commute to our next stop – Bielefeld, Germany.
Wanting to spend the day outside the city, we rented a car and drove 3 hours north to Inverness. Renting a car in a tight and overcrowded city is one thing. Renting a car where “Opposite Day” is a state imposed on the driver is exciting. Add standard transmission and we’re on for a full blown adrenaline rush. Heroically, Mike got us to Inverness with 2 minutes to spare for our cruise of Loch Ness.
The kids were excited for the opportunity to chase Nessy, the Loch Ness monster. Loch Ness is vast and eerily beautiful. The windy cruise brought us to the Urquart Castle Ruins where we explored, played, and learned about castle life in the 1200s. Jacob’s favorite part was the beehive shaped dove dwelling while Olivia’s was the light up exhibition showing parts of Loch Ness. Mine was most certainly the varied work area, multipurpose for mending clothes, making ale, and fixing furniture. What home is complete without that?
After the cruise we headed in town for an awesome meal at Number 27. After we went to the cheesiest kilt museum complete with edu-taining film on kilt culture that was straight out of 1985 and slightly inappropriate for children. It was just right in the drizzly evening before retiring to yet another quaint Airbnb, this time a farm house in the Inverness countryside.
Tuesday in Edinburgh brought us beautiful, sunny weather. With our late start, we decided to attempt Arthur’s Seat. We ascended 900 feet to the top with the help of rocky steps, taking just under an hour with several breaks along the way. Olivia was our leader, and she took her role seriously, ensuring that we were aware of upcoming difficult climbs and clearing the path for passers. While this wasn’t our first family climb, it was trickier to maneuver. Passers comments ranged from “wow you are brave to bring young kids” to “the kids will beat the adults”. The pathway up unveiled stunning views of Edinburgh castle, the University, and of course the harbor, among others. We were rewarded at the very top with a performance by Piper on the Hill. We spent the afternoon climbing, wandering, and enjoying the park and city near us.
Later in the evening, we headed to the Castle for dinner at Amber, where we were served traditional Scottish fare, including Scottish tapas of venison & haggis. The assortment of desserts included a sticky dundee marmelade cake that I’m going to have to try to make at home. Dinner included a performance by two Indian dancers who were fun and included unsuspecting dinner patrons for audience participation points.
The highlight of the evening was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performed at the Castle Esplanade. Over 1000 performers filled the esplanade. Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Massed Pipes & Drums, the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Queen’s Colour Squadron with the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment were joined by military bands from India, France, and Japan. They told stories of history through their music and dance. Complete with fireworks, the performance entertained and enchanted.
You can look up your clan on the clanchiefs.org site. The Livingstone clan continues with a current chief, shared ancestry info, and a cultural organization.
With zero hassle or delays on our red-eye from Providence, we arrived in Edinburgh at 10am ready to start exploring. Our first stop was the Waverly station to drop our luggage, and the off we went to explore the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Fringe has taken over all of Edinburgh – art/dance/music, street performances, multiple venues per city block, over 3000 shows and over 1M tourists.
Jacob and Olivia picked Gobland for the Goblins, an improv-style performance where audience “players” choose the outcome in this choose-your-adventure style video-game inspired tale of building communities despite differences.
After that show, we went to Riddler’s Court to see the wonderful Warren and Kitty Elsmore’s exhibit “Brick City – The Backstage Tour!” Kitty spoke to the crowds about how they build larger Lego exhibits, what kinds of events commissioned them, how many legos they have (over 3M!) Their largest and most complex structure, the DFDS ship, have over 1.05M lego bricks! Jacob and Olivia enjoyed playing lego hunt, looking for a set of characters in the massive Ediburgh-inspired display in the venue. Kitty’s kitties were a big hit with Olivia. Afterward, we checked into our quaint AirBnb, unpacked, relaxed, and then headed to dinner at Smokestack with Warren and Kitty, a neighborhood favorite of theirs.
An early rise on our last day led us to Boiling River just a few minutes north of Mammoth. Boiling River is where a large hot spring enters the Gardner River, allowing the hot and cool waters to mix into a temperature comfortable enough to bathe in. We spent a few hours enjoying this natural hot tub, relaxing from a few days of hikes, enjoying the natural beauty around us. While quiet when we arrived, by the time we left there were many visitors.
Later in the day we visited the Travertine Terraces near our hotel. The terraces have been described as fountains frozen in time or inside-out caves. However you view them, they are unique and remarkable. Each had its own style and grandeur. How are they formed? “The Travertine terraces are formed from limestone. Thermal water rises through the limestone, carrying high amounts of the dissolved limestone (calcium carbonate). At the surface, carbon dioxide is released and calcium carbonate is deposited, forming travertine, the chalky white mineral forming the rock of travertine terraces. Colorful stripes are formed by thermophiles, heat-loving organisms. Travertine formations grow much more rapidly than the more common sinter formations in the park because of the ‘soft’ nature of limestone. Due to the rapid deposition, these features constantly and quickly change.”
We said goodbye to Yellowstone and began our trek to Bozeman, where we met up with Phatty and had a fun night out on the town.
5 days / 3 inns / 36 miles hiking / 8 wildlife (Chipmunk, Bison, Wolves, Deer, Prong horn, Sand hill crane, Horses, Osprey)
1211 E Main St, Bozeman, MT, United States