It is a surprisingly easy drive to Brooks Hotel in Edinburgh City, especially since we know we will be within walking distance of all the major attractions. We park just around the corner, are greeted warmly at the front desk, and are shown the lounge area, made so inviting by well-worn leather arm chairs, a fireplace, and an "honesty bar" well stocked with single malts. The mounted antlers and animal hide rugs remind us that we are in Scotland, and we quickly check out our cozy family room, freshen up, and head out to see the sights.
Within twenty minutes, we are in front of
Greyfriar's Bobby, a monument dedicated to the little Scottie dog who supposedly sat on his
for several years after his death. His popularity is evident by the number of fresh flowers and little doggie figurines on Greyfriar's grave in the nearby churchyard.
But this is not why we are here. We are here to meet our guide for The Potter Trail, an unofficial walking tour of all things
Harry Potter in Edinburgh. And there he is, a robed young man with a wand in his hand. We are all provided with wands of our own, taught a very useful spell for changing crosswalk lights from red to green - Rossio Lumos - and off we go! We are shown the gravestones where
JK Rowling got the inspiration for some of her characters, notably those of William McGonagall and Thomas Riddle, and the nearby George Herriot's School, on which Hogwarts was supposedly based. The kids are thrilled to put their hands in Rowling's handprints outside City Hall, and visit the cafe where she wrote the first Harry Potter book. The tour is also a great way for us to get to know the city a little better - for free!
After a great night's sleep, and a delicious full Scottish breakfast, we chat with Carla Brooks, the owner of our hotel, who recommends
Camera Obscura as an attraction we might all like, so that is our first stop of the day. We brave the wintery weather and walk to this fascinating place, a 150 year old purpose-built tourist attraction that is still as relevant today
as it was to Victorian tourists. The kids have a great time with all the illusions and the mirror maze, and when we have explored all five floors, we are, conveniently, a minute's walk from
Edinburgh Castle, the next stop on our self-guided tour.
Of course, we have seen the castle already; its imposing presence on
Castle Rock dominates this beautiful, historic city. But as we approach it from the
Royal Mile, it is even more impressive. We walk across the drawbridge and enter the walls through the Portcullis Gate, and it becomes immediately clear that this could easily be a day-long visit. The "castle" is actually made up of many buildings, ranging in age from St Margaret's Chappell built in 1130 - the oldest building in Edinburgh, to more recent structures like The Royal Palace (1433), the Governor's House (1742), and the Military Prison (1842). The highlight of this World Heritage Site, for us, is definitely seeing the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny, but there really is something for everyone, including the National War Museum, the Great Hall, and Mons Meg, a six tonne medieval siege gun. And thankfully, cafes and gift shops abound, so we can warm ourselves up after lingering (despite snow and icy winds) over the spectacular views of the city at every step.
A haggis and cheese pie at Auld Jock's Pie Shoppe on the way back to the hotel completes our Edinburgh experience. Hot chocolate by the fire, and we are all ready to turn in - it's an early start to the Highlands tomorrow!
Brooks Hotel Edinburgh
Jane Hastelow is a former high school English teacher and curriculum coach currently enjoying a year of family travel and education with her husband and three children. She has a BA in English and a Masters in Communications. Jane loves to combine her passion for writing with family travel. You can also follow her adventures at