Stunning Scottish Sojourn
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
On Tuesday 20th July we set off from Dumfries for the hour's drive to Talla Reservoir, in the Scottish Borders. The reservoir which dates back to 1905 is an earth-work dam fed by Talla Water, supplemented by water from the nearby Fruid Reservoir. The main reason for heading here however was to meet our photographers from Photoshoot Scotland, Julien and Rose, who I had booked through Airbnb. I'd paid £47 for the Airbnb experience (the price for one 'slot' but if you were a couple you would pay twice) and the price included 3 complimentary downloads of images. Of course, when you get them about a week later, you are tempted to buy many more and I ended up paying a further £75 a little further down the line for 5 more images (£15 each). I could have bought the whole gallery for £325 but that was slightly out of my budget this time around. I also had a watermarked slideshow of the best ones to help me choose which I could download and share. The experience included two photographers armed with lots of professional gear, English girl Rose and Frenchman Julien, and we spent 2 hours with them both, it was lots of fun and also a huge exercise in memory making - a considerable improvement on our selfies. I had explained my itinerary months in advance and they were brilliant messaging me on Airbnb to plan it all. Although they shoot all around the Scottish Borders, we did our shoot at Talla Reservoir, Megget Reservoir and finished off at St Mary's Loch. Check out their work on Instagram! I would highly recommend them.
It's actually quite funny that on all the instructions from Rose and Julien, they tell you to wear wellies and sturdy clothes yet on the day we were there it was so hot! From St Mary's Loch, we continued on driving to Glasgow (69 miles, about 1h20), stopping en route at a motorway services for a McDonald's lunch and a drive of a purple car (!), and parked in the Glasshouse NCP car park and checked into the Glasgow Queen Street Travelodge into an accessible 'super room' for £39.99 (booked on the saver, non flexible rate) so we had quite a nice room for Travelodge standards at least and actually a pretty lovely view of the city.
I had hoped to jump on the Glasgow Sightseeing Bus Tour but we were thwarted by having stopped for lunch, losing time and then getting a bit lost to find the bus stop as lots of roads were closed due to Harrison Ford filming Indiana Jones 5 just around the corner! We did get a glimpse of some of the gorgeous cars being used and some of the actors though and had a stroll around with the buggy, including spending far too much money in the enormous Primark just around the corner. I'd downloaded the NCP app to save a bit of money, and including the discount that the Travelodge gave us, the overnight parking for 19 hours was only £4.50!
On Wednesday 21st July we got on the road just after 10am for our long drive (168 miles!) up to Inverness! With hindsight, I'd perhaps have planned to do this over two days rather than one once I realised the distances but we stopped off in Loch Lomond, Tiger's highlights being possibly the bouncy castle and a 'train ride'!
It was certainly with some relief that we finally checked into the Kings Highway (a Wetherspoon hotel) just after 7pm which was £49 for the night. Parking is, in theory, possibly straight outside the King's Arms but all the spaces were taken so it was a bit of a faff unloading the car, then driving the the multistorey car park around the corner, wheeling Tiger back in her buggy and then doing the reverse it the morning but hey ho at least the parking was cheap at just £6! We rushed out to dinner in the very busy pub and then up to bed. My fascination with bathrooms continued here with Tiger sleeping soundly in our own travelcot (they do have them but I'd forgotten to book and it was easiest to use our own). I loved the room though, with its simply enormous bed, it was very comfortable and perfect for us.
The next day, Thursday 22nd July, we had breakfast in the hotel, walked back to the car park, left Inverness and drove the 69 miles (about 1h50) (via a spectacular nappy and "I've been sick Mummy!" changing spot, see pictures below) to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home to the Royal Family. I didn't know it at the time until I read it in the news but we were one day ahead of the Queen arriving! I now realise that Balmoral is closed to the public during August, September and October so we were lucky we accidentally timed our visit perfectly. We had booked our ticket (one adult) for £15 + booking fee online and our timeslot was 2pm-3pm. The parking was super, Tiger walked the whole way around although did get a little scared of the wood - I think she thought the Gruffalo was hiding in them! There is a gift shop, a little cafe and for slightly older children a game to spot the corgis dotted around. We spotted a few and got a badge - yay.
We continued onwards to Aberdeen (49 miles, about 1h20 drive), popped into the Tescos there for supplies, and then checked into the Aberdeen City Centre Premier Inn. Whilst we didn't venture into Aberdeen itself, the Premier Inn was a very relaxing stopping off point, was the cheapest of our entire trip at just £29 for an absolutely enormous accessible room. We filled the car up with petrol in Morrisons, had a wonderful welcome from the receptionist, dined in their attached restaurant for £21, made a friend (through the perspex divider!) in the restaurant with a lovely lady, and parking was £6 managed by LPS.
On Friday 23rd July we drove 30 minutes to Dunnotar Castle, a dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. We had booked our ticket and 10am timeslot through their website for £9 including booking fee (one adult and one free under five year old). Over fives are £4 and family tickets for 2 adults and 2 children are £20. There were lots and lots of steps to climb down and up to the castle but Tiger managed them all!
After our busy step climbing, unsurprisingly, Tiger slept all the way to Dundee (50 miles). We were staying in another accessible room in the Dundee Centre Premier Inn, this time for £49. There was a Tesco nearby and we stocked up on food and fuel, and spent the afternoon visiting Dundee Discovery, which is right next to the Premier Inn, home to the world famous Antarctic research vessel RRS Discovery. This attraction tells the story of the Discovery, from her beginnings in Dundee in to her amazing Antarctic expedition and her voyages thereafter. Twas great fun to be in our great friend Ron's hometown, if only for one night. We had dinner in the Beefeater with plenty of ice cream to finish!
Saturday 24th July was our last day in Scotland as we were driving to Norham near to Berwicki-upon-Tweed for the night but we stopped off in Edinburgh on the way to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia (63 miles and about 1h30 to Edinburgh). We had pre-booked tickets for £17 (adult) and Tiger being under 5 was free with our timeslot being 1.30pm. It was so easy to get there, parking was free in the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre. Although we left the buggy in the car, the Yacht is completely accessible to buggies with lifts everywhere!
From Edinburgh, we drove onto our wonderful little hotel in a village called Norham, near to Berwick-Upon-Tweed called the Mason's Arms. Here, we had a 'superior twin room' for £45 via booking.com which was quite twee but did the job. I used our own travelcot here and just about squeezed it into the bathroom! We had dinner with them too when we arrived, the staff were just exceptional, and the complimentary breakfast delicious (The only side note is that Norham is a tiny village and we had to buy Tiger's milk in Berwick.). The perfect welcome back to England!