No Trip to Scotland is Complete without a 3am Flight Change!

Our time in South Queensferry was meant to be easy and relaxing.  Check into the b&b, visit the neighboring Midhope Castle, one last fish and chips, and then back to pack up and hit the sack early.  Not too exciting, but we wanted to ensure that we were rested up and ready for the hustle and bustle of airports, flights, and the dreaded customs.

We stayed at the Parkhead House, which was definitely the place for unwinding.  A perfectly decorated Scottish retreat with backdoor access to a deer park–what more could we ask for?  Another perk to the Parkhead House is its location on the Hopetoun Estate property, also home to Midhope Castle (more commonly known as Lallybroch ~ Outlander fans, rejoice!)

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So after checking in and chatting with the manager–who is wonderfully hospitable and entertaining, by the way–we were ready to go about our business of finding Lallybroch and grabbing a quick dinner.  But there was one little hitch in our plans: we were about to leave Scotland and had not yet bought any souvenirs for our kids.  FOR OUR KIDS!  Honey and soaps for the friends: check.  Harris tweed and linens for the grandparents: check.  A purse and scarf for myself: check.  But for our kids?  Nothing.  How’s that for terrible planning?

So we headed out to South Queensferry’s city center in hopes of finding the perfect gifts for kids.  There were some stuffed animals, but they were not nearly as cute as the Highland Cows we passed by in Edinburgh (where we had convinced ourselves we wouldn’t want to lug around all 1/2 a pound of fluff for two weeks) or the Harris Tweed bears in Inverness (that I foolishly decided were £5 more than I should pay).  Okay, pass on the second rate stuffed animals.  We also found some really cute jewelry and mugs with witty sayings, but… not so much the right gifts for 4-and-7-year-old boys, I suppose.  Pass.  Finally, after ducking into all of the shops and nearly ready to give up, we found some delicious tablet in a candy shop and decided it was better than nothing.  Okay, after an hour of shopping, some cavities for the kids: check.

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Forth Bridge, a UNESCO Heritage site
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Jubilee Clock Tower on High Street
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High Street
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Priory Church
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Jubilee Clock Tower

After securing our heartfelt gifts for the kids (which, let’s face it, would likely be just a pile of crumbs by the time we made it home), it was off to Midhope Castle.  Or so we thought.  With the address loaded in the GPS and a small map of the Hopetoun property in hand, we drove to Hopetoun Estate, from which we figured we could easily navigate our way to Midhope Castle.  Arriving at the entrance, we were a bit conflicted when we saw the sign clearly denoting visiting hours (which were of course over) next to the gate which was wide open.  Brushing aside the nagging feeling that the sign was trying to tell us something (as in Keep Out, Dummies), we saluted the open gate and drove on in.

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Hopetoun Estate (or for those in the know, the Duke of Sandringham’s digs)

We stopped to admire the main estate and then began following the directions toward Midhope Castle.  With nary a soul on the roads, the nagging feeling of trespassing returned and then worsened when we found the road to Midhope securely gated and locked.  As we backed our car through the narrow, tree-lined road–because a U-turn would be too easy–and looked for a way out, we started imagining our last night in Scotland spent huddled in our rental, waiting for either the gates to open or the trespassing police to catch us.  Fortunately, we happened upon an open gate and gladly hightailed it back to our B&B.

Of course our return to the Parkhead House did not mean we had given up on our pilgrimage.  No, our return actually just ensured us a smoother trip to Midhope, following the directions from Parkhead as intended on the map given by our host–go figure.  By the time we arrived at Midhope Castle, there was no one around–no surprise after our previous misadventures had delayed us well past opening hours–so we walked up and enjoyed seeing Lallybroch without the company of other tourists.

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After stopping for a few pictures, we thought we would wander around to the back of the home, but unfortunately our time was cut short when a resident rolled up in her Land Rover and kindly shared her views on respecting private property after hours.  Oops!  I supposed we could have pled our case–please ma’am, we’re not intruding, we are actually staying on the property, and plus we reeeeeaally want to see Lallybroch–but instead we made our apologies and scurried to our car for a quick escape.  So long, Frasers!

After our adventures in trespassing, we stopped at the Newton Arms, a local pub that had a great 2 for 1 deal on fish and chips.  Not bad for a final Scottish dinner.

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From there. it was back to the house to pack up and get situated for our 11:30 am flight.  We made quick work of the packing and even managed to squeeze in some time with the sheep and deer in the park behind the house.

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And then off to bed in hopes of recharging for the next day.  Alarms set for 6am, plans for a leisurely breakfast, out by 8am for our rendezvous with Alamo, and then checking in with plenty of time to spare.

Of course, that’s not how it happened…

3am: Sound asleep in my comfortable bed at the Parkhead House, my body and mind were resting up for the long haul of travel that lay ahead.  But wait, what was that sound? An alarm clock?  A call?  A text?  Eyes still closed, I yanked my phone from the charger and brought it to my face, eyes squinting open just enough to see that there was a text from United Airlines.  Oh who cares.  My eyelids drooped back down, my body relaxed, and my mind began to ease back into sleep until…. Wait, dang it, United seems important.  I forced my eyes open again and fought the sleepy blur just enough to decipher the following message:  YOUR FLIGHT AIN’T HAPPENIN’, SO YOU’D BEST CHANGE IT IF YOU WANT TO GET HOME AND SEE YOUR KIDS ANYTIME SOON!

Message received, I shot out of bed, called United, and began the process of changing flights.  Of course 6am was the only realistic option, meaning we had to be out of the house in less than an hour.  So I padded across the hall to our friends’ room where I pounded on the door and urgently whisper-shouted, “Get up, get up, get up, GET! UP!” Once I annoyed them awake, I attempted to explain what was essentially a mushed up tangle of crazy in my head, and then headed back to resume a ridiculous attempt at getting out of the house.

Interestingly, after changing flights, half-showering, shoving my toiletries into the suitcase, and hauling my bedraggled self out the door, I woke up enough to realize that the United text actually read something like, “Due to weather in Chicago, you have the option to change flights for free.”  I suppose that was not exactly the same as my initial interpretation that we had to change flights or else.  Hmmm.  And as I stalker-checked my FlightStats app to see if our original flights were cancelled or delayed, it turned out that our original route would have been just fine.  Is it wrong that I secretly wished the flights would be delayed so my freakout would have been justified?  But oh well, we made it home right on time, and all was well.

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Now the only problem left: when is our next trip? 😉

Tips and Lessons Learned:

  1. If you have a chance to stay at the Parkhead House, be sure you allow yourself more than one night.  The house is charming, the area is lovely, and its proximity to Edinburgh makes Parkhead House a perfect home base for sightseeing.
  2. Apparently airlines will allow you to change your flight if there is a likelihood of delays or cancellations.  Just make sure you are completely awake before making any decisions.  Not that our flight changes were bad–but we did end up with a ridiculously long layover as well as getting stuck in middle seats on the second leg.  Just sayin’.
  3. If you have an early flight out of Edinburgh, make sure to stop by Caffe Nero for some coffee and a quick breakfast.  It wasn’t the b&b spread we had planned on, but the scones and clotted cream were pretty darn good for airport food.
  4. Don’t be afraid to buy souvenirs early on in a trip.  Carrying around a few extra pounds is definitely better than scrambling for presents at the last minute.  But if you do find yourself putting off your shopping a little too long, the Edinburgh Airport provides some pretty decent last minute shopping opportunities.  Just ask my kids.

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