HotDaddy met us for lunch at this awesome place I discovered, called Hillhead Bookclub. The décor was eclectic, the atmosphere was relaxed and funky, and the food was yummy and reasonable.
They serve basil-strawberry water, which looks gorgeous on the table. There is also a great craft-cocktail menu. One interesting cocktail for a group would be the Hillhead Punch served in a Gramophone! Parents! You can enjoy the cocktails, because there is a playroom for the kids. There is even a Ping-Pong table for the “big” kids.
After lunch we made our way to the famous University Café. You may have seen the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown episode, where he visits this cafe and makes it look amazing. That’s why I had to check it out for myself. Apparently, this is the café that Meryl Steep visits whenever she is in town to get her a deep fried Mars bar. Although, I’ve learned during my stay here in Glasgow that deep fried Mars bars aren’t as popular among Glaswegians as I had thought. In fact, University Café is one of the few establishments that even offer this healthy dessert (hehe), but it is quite infamous, so we had to try it!
We also were told by Glaswegian friends to have real Scottish soda, IRN BRU. We tried it. Not a big fan yet, but then again I’m not a big soda person. It looks like orange soda, but tastes like bubble gum and is really sweet. Kind of plays with the senses a little.
Since we pumped the kids full of sugar, it was necessary to burn up some energy. We planted Grams and Papa at Oran Mor for drinks, while we took the kids to the Botanical Gardens and River Kelvin.
We got them good and tired, before we decided to head back to Hillhead Bookclub for one more pint. They had such great drink prices, 2.50 GBP for my favorite brew, Tennents. Plus, there is the playroom to keep the kids happy. When you drink, you get hungry, so we did nibble on a few yummy dishes and desserts. I loved the Mushroom Risotto and the Grilled Harissa Chicken Salad with Toasted Super Seeds. What is Grilled Harissa, you ask? It is an amazing dense salty cheese that is grilled and sliced on top of the salad. It was truly scrumptious.
Today, we hopped onto the City Sightseeing bus, or as my kids call it, the big red bus. Best way to describe it is as a big red double-decker bus that takes you around the city, making various stops of interest around the city. They have them all over the world, but this one was Glasgow specific with 22 stops that you are welcome hop on or hop off throughout the tour. You can buy a one day pass for 12 GBP or a two day pass for 15 GBP, which I think is the best deal. Kids 5 years and under are free. Buses come around every 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the day of the week.
Since HotDaddy was working, we took the full 2 hour tour without getting off at the stops. It was my way of seeing the city and getting a lay of the land, so I could better determine what I wanted to explore the most and to help me plan out the rest of the week. For example, I NEED to explore the 13th century Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis, the “The City of the Dead.”
Here are some shots from around the city of Glasgow!
It takes 2 hours to go around the whole city, so by the end of the tour we were really hungry. We got off at Byres Road to have lunch at The Bothy. It is the perfect spot for some comfort. HotDaddy met us there, but it was too late hop on the bus and explore of any sites, so we decided to shop around and have a night cap at Brel on Ashton Lane.
We’ve been kind of annoyed by the “no kids after 8:00pm” rule, but after tonight, we understand it. It’s not as much about the kids as it is about the behavior of the drinkers after a certain time. We witnessed some drunkies getting a little rowdy just after 8:00pm and the manager was calling the police on them. Time to go. We hailed a cab and headed back to the Kirklee Hotel. Since we had a late lunch we decided to order from Chow again and eat in our room. We can’t be in the pubs after 8:00pm, so we brought dinner in.
HotDaddy got out of work early today, so he met us at City Sightseeing bus stop and we made our war to George Square. We hopped off to explore and to snap some awesome photos.
Starving, we needed lunch and we needed it fast! Thankfully, Grams spotted a sign that read 5 GBP cocktails, so that’s where we went! Brown’s was amazing, classy and delicious. Of course we partook in the specialty cocktails. Grams had a spicy Bloody Mary, while I stepped out of my savory/salty box and ordered the featured Strawberry Shortcake Martini. Sometimes you have to change things up. The mushrooms were amazing and don’t even get me started on the goat cheese salad! I love that in Scotland, they load the goat cheese. In California, they are so chintzy.
After lunch, we hopped on the red bus and went to the historical Glasgow Cathedral, built in 1206. This is the oldest Cathedral in Glasgow, even older than some of the castles! It did not disappoint.
We even went down into the crypt, where St. Mungo’s tomb rests. Even before the Glasgow Cathedral was here, St. Mungo’s church was in the same location. So much history and beauty here is Glasgow. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and it closed before we could see Necropolis.
Hungry and thirsty, we got off the red bus and went straight to Curler’s Rest for some libations. Our friend, Frank took a chance and popped by, hoping to find us there. He was in luck; there we were having a good old time. He pulled up a chair and we proceeded to have a great night of Oban whisky and pints of Innis & Gunn and laughter…until 8:00pm that was.
We ran out time yesterday, so HotDaddy took the morning off and we went back to the Cathedral and Necropolis to explore some more. On the top of my list was Necropolis, since we completely missed it the day before. Let me just say, The City of the Dead did not disappoint. I took the family on the big hike all the way to the top. I snapped as many photos as I could, read as many tombstones as I could, but it started to rain (big surprise) and we had to run for cover. So, we took shelter in the Cathedral and used that time to shop for souvenirs.
Before all of that we hit up Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow. It housed clergy men as well as Queen Mary of Scots at one point. It was an interesting house, quite larger inside than I had thought it would be, although the doorways were tiny.
FireCracker loved wondering through the rooms, imagining that they were hers. I snapped a photo of her gazing out the window day dreaming.
Then we walked around the garden, thinking all those who wondered before us.
Rain, rain, rain, hunger and thirst, it was time to book it to the Cathedral House Hotel for lunch and a pint. Cute little place. The food was really reasonable and quite yummy. FireCracker and CuddleBear have become big fans of Scottish fare. FireCracker devoured her Steak and Ale pie, while CuddleBear had two orders for Haggis Balls with his ginger beer. “All I want is my hot haggis balls and ginger beer,” CuddleBear demanded.
After lunch we hopped on the red bus to the People’s Palace and Glasgow Green. In front of the museum is the world’s largest terracotta fountain, donated by Royal Doulton. So, naturally we took some photos.
Inside the People’s Palace is a museum showcasing everyday life in Glasgow throughout the decades. Really fascinating was the WWII Anderson Bunker.
The Glasgow Green, the oldest city park, was donated by King James II in 1450 and every Glaswegian has the right to graze their sheep there. It was even the resting spot for the Jacobites before their final defeat.
HotDaddy had to go back to work, so we took the kids back to DiMaggio’s for dinner. They begged the whole bus ride back to Byres Road. They love the pizza, macaroni and the play room.
Before we knew HotDaddy was back and just in time for an awesome magic show. A magician came up to the table with balloon animals and I was apprehensive. My kids and balloon animals don’t last long. But, I was totally impressed with this guy and he put on quite a private performance for us. FireCracker and CuddleBear really enjoyed it! We learned that has actually performed at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. So, he legit!
Today, HotDaddy went to work and we hopped on the red bus. We took the bus to the Riverside Museum, which was voted Best Museum in Europe 2013. It, however, decided to rain right as we departed the bus. Not a light rain, a down pour. CuddleBear threw a fit and refused to put on his rain coat. Awesome. Needless to say, we were all drenched and annoyed by the time we reached the museum.
Once inside, our moods changed for the better. Riverside Museum is a transportation museum, showcasing various forms of transportation through the ages. There is even a reproduction of an old Victorian street to wonder down and explore. This was our favorite part. We also checked out the Tall Ship.
HotDaddy really wanted to see this museum, but he had to work and we had to see it without him. Sad. We hopped back on the red bus to pick him up at the University, but he missed the bus! So, he had to run to Byres Road at stop 22 to hop on. He made it! Phew!
We took the bus the Central Station to buy train tickets to Edinburgh and Stirling for the weekend.
We were in a hurry, because we were meeting a bunch of HotDaddy’s colleagues and 5:00pm at the Old Schoolhouse. It was now 4:00pm!! Starving, we had all missed lunch, so we hauled a cab instead of taking the red bus back. We needed to get to the other side of town in a hurry and bypass the stops. We got the pub at 4:30pm and ordered a round of food and drink, inhaling every morsel.
It was a really fun night with friends from all over the world, who’ve all happened to find ourselves in Glasgow at the same time. The kids played, we laughed, drank and ate.
I had heard from multiple sources that Edinburgh gets really busy and if you aren’t there at opening for the castle, you could get stuck in a 2 hour queue. With 2 kids, an impatient hubby and grandparents, I knew that would be a disaster. To avoid this debacle, I purchased tickets to the castle online (kids under 5 are free) and purchased Scotrail tickets for 7:00am to allow for delays.
It was certainly an early morning with us all up by 5:00am. We needed to get all six us ready by 6:00am, for that’s when the cab would be arriving to take us to Central Station. It wasn’t sure how long the cab ride would take with morning traffic, so I wanted to give us ample time to get from point A to point B.
Well, there was no traffic and we arrived at the station with plenty of time to figure out the Scotrail system. Pleasantly enough, there is nothing to figure out. Scotrail as well as Central Station is so well organized that it was a piece of cake to navigate. Actually, easier than a piece of cake, baking is hard. So, with time to kill we enjoyed some morning pastries.
We were in Edinburgh in 45 minutes. We arrived so early that we decided to get try the McDonalds. Hungry Partier has a great post about why you should try McDonalds in every country.
Pre-purchasing the tickets and arriving early paid off, because we got right in with no problem. By midday this place was nuts. Papa has a hard time walking long distances, so it was helpful that the taxi from the Waverly Station takes you all the way to the gate of Edinburgh Castle. It avoided the steep climb up Royal Mile.
The Castle itself was really amazing and everyone should visit, if given the chance. Since we got there at opening, we had plenty of time to run wonder around the castle and explore all the grounds. Firecracker even participated in the piking tutorial. Not sure if it is a good thing that my daughter learned how to be a fearless warrior, but she had fun.
At 1:00pm is the firing of the cannon. This happens every day except on Sundays, so plan accordingly if this is important for you to see. It is pretty cool to check out while you’re there. That being said, I wouldn’t concern myself with it if I got to visit the castle again. Actually, that would be a good time to explore the castle while the crowds are busy with the cannon.
After the firing of the cannon, we were starving. We had been there since 9:30am. We wanted to find a cool place on Royal Mile for nice meal and beer. I had seen a ton online, but once we actually there it was hard to navigate. Unfortunately, Edinburgh is really touristy and crowded, so finding a place to eat proved to be challenging. We couldn’t maneuver very easily with our large posse on the steep crowded streets of Edinburgh. I was so frustrated, hot and thirsty. We were all starting to get grumpy, so we hailed a cab and told him to get out of here. We told him we needed an awesome place to have lunch and beer away from the hoards of people. He offered to take us to his favorite place, called Sheep’s Heid, Scotland’s oldest pub. We said, “Let’s go!”
As he drove and drove we began to regret our decision. Where the hell were we going? Finally, he took us to a small village near old town and dropped us at the door of the Sheep’s Heid. It was a very cute place and very busy with locals (good sign). We got a table upstairs, beer and food. Like magic, we were nice again. The manager was super helpful and gave us tips on things to do near the restaurant and even called us a cab to take us back to Royal Mile, because I decided I didn’t want to leave without seeing the catacombs.
At first we couldn’t find a tour that would let the kids go, but finally we found Auld Reekie Underground Tours, which allowed the kids to take the torture tour. Nice, huh? I had to take a tour, because the catacombs are privately owned. I you know me or read my blog, you know my kids aren’t censored much. See Vampire Vail Weekend. Thankfully, my kids are not scaredy-cats and I was able to take them on a creepy adventure under the city of Edinburgh. What a tour. It is so awful down in the vaults, that it really made me sad to think of real people suffering down there. Very depressing, but worth seeing.
I didn’t get to see the Palace of Holyroodhouse, so I guess we’ll have to go back some day.
After the intense experience, we headed back to Waverly Station to catch the train. Going back was a bit more crowded and we got stuck on a long round-a-bout way back to Glasgow Queen Station. Brightside: we got to see a lot of little Scottish towns. Downside: it was crowded, hot and took too long too late and night. We were beat after such a busy day. I’m kind of regretting my decision to purchase tickets for Stirling in the morning!
Not as hectic of a morning as yesterday, phew. I heard there were fewer crowds at Stirling and a shorter train ride, so we took our time and enjoyed our breakfast in the room. The train to Stirling left out of Queen Station and was a pleasant short journey with coffee service.
Before we knew it, we were in Stirling. The taxi took us right to the entrance of the castle, which was nice. Stirling Castle is up on a hill too. Let me just say right now, that I enjoyed Stirling Castle much more! The castle is equally fascinating with tons of history, less touristy, fewer crowds, less expensive, and you can see the Wallace Monument. The views from the castle were just as impressive as Edinburgh, but you’re not fighting a mass of people to see them. I just loved it! It was such a peaceful day, minus CuddleBear’s meltdown in the gift shop. Whatever, he is 3 and meltdowns will happen.
Finding a spot for lunch was super easy and we went to the first place off of the castle, called Portcullis, which is an old schoolhouse. What was great about this establishment was the location was convenient, it was historical, the atmosphere was cozy, and the food was reasonable and delicious. What more could you ask for?
After lunch we wanted to explore the quaint town of Stirling and found ourselves exploring yet another graveyard. We weaved our way through tombstones until we found ourselves at a green by the church and an old hospital (now coffee shop), built in the 1600’s.
Somehow, through wondering in the graveyard, we lost Papa and Grams. We decided to let the kids play in the green until Papa and Grams caught up, but they never came. I sent HotDaddy to find them, but when he left it started to rain. The kids and I sought cover under the door of the church along with another family. As we waited the storm to clear we chatted with the family and learned that they were from Glasgow on the same weekend adventure as us. We agreed that we enjoyed Stirling Castle more and how relieved we felt to return to Glasgow from Edinburgh. HotDaddy found us when the rain had stopped, but Grams and Papa weren’t with him. He told me Papa was waiting for us at Argyll Lodging, but he had sent Grams our way. So the question remained, where the heck was Grams? Still lost in the graveyard?
Luckily, the family from Glasgow found her and sent in our direction and we all joined Papa at Argyll Lodging. Such an amazing house! I could totally see myself living there.
The train back was quiet and nice, but really hot. So hot, that HotDaddy couldn’t concentrate on FireCracker’s constant ramblings about her upcoming birthday party plans. Noticing that HotDaddy was not giving her enthusiastic responses, she had a meltdown. Ugh.
Once in Glasgow we decided to grave a quick bite at Brown’s, since it was so close to the station, yummy and gave us the nice atmosphere we needed. A glass of rose please!
A quick taxi ride to the Kirklee Hotel and were done! Lights out!
We slept in today, well at least until breakfast was delivered to our room. HotDaddy ran to the office for one more day of work to tie up loose ends, while we went souvenir shopping on Byres.
Once he was done we met at the Subway Station on Byres Road, also known as clockwork orange. It is always on time, it is orange and it travels in a full circle around the city. I heart the subway! It was cheap, easy, clean and fast! We were in downtown in no time.
We got off at Buchanan Street and visited the famous Willow Tea Room, designed by famous architect Charles Renni Mackintoch. We couldn’t’ leave the UK without having proper tea service, now could we?
After tea we finished our shopping at James Pringle Weavers, bringing way too much home. Whatever. Our family is big and we can’t take them all to Scotland, so we brought a little Scotland back to our family.
Working up an appetite, we headed back to Drum & Monkey for one last pint. Trying to absorb everything we will soon be leaving. Whaaa!
We were booted-out by 8:00pm, but still wanted to hangout, so we went for ice cream. People in Glasgow love their ice cream. Despite it being cold outside, there are tons of ice cream parlors and they are always full. Very unlike Southern California, where you are lucky to find a FroYo place.
Headed home. Sad face. Douglas, from the Kirklee Hotel, got up early and saw us out, waving goodbye from the doorstep. It was sad to leave, almost like we were leaving family. The flights home were easy and smooth, thank goodness. Stopping at Newark on the way home was more difficult than going to Scotland, because we had to go through security again and recheck our bags. Kind of annoying with grumpy kids and grandparents, but all well that ends well and we were home to L.A in no time.
For more travel inspiration, check Friday Postcards!
Author: Hot Mama
I’m a busy working mama, who understands the importance of taking a time out to enjoy life. Always ready for an adventure, this mama will not hesitate to pack the family up and go. Family vacations are a great way to bond with your kids and create wonderful memories that they will carry with them throughout their life. A fabulous getaway doesn’t have to break the bank! I’ll give you the tips and tricks you need to make every trip memorable, reasonable and HOT!