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This is a guest post from my mom who (along with my step-dad) is preparing to head to Scotland for a week.  I used my miles and points to book them a trip to Scotland, with a one-day stopover in Dublin.  They’ll be flying Aer Lingus business class from Washington to Dublin, connecting onward to Edinburgh, and the return is on United business class from Dublin to Newark.

(SEE ALSO: I’m going to Europe (for 250,000 miles))

The main impetus for the trip was that my Dad is very interested in his Scottish heritage.  He takes a birthday kilt walk every year, one minute for every year of his life.  This sounds much more impressive when you realize that his birthday is in December(!)

And a bonus blackmail picture of me in a kilt from a few years ago when a few of my kids and I joined him on a (very cold) birthday kilt walk

My mom and I were originally trying to keep it as a surprise from my dad but logistically we couldn’t make it happen.  Unfortunately, he has left the kilts at home because he heard that “real” Scottish people don’t like Americans coming over here and “pretending” to be Scottish 😀

So I told my parents that if they had any thoughts that they wanted to capture from their trip that I’d be happy to post them here – here is the first installment from my parents.

How far “north” is Scotland, anyways?

I’ve been trying to get a feel for the size of Scotland, and it’s location on the globe.  We’ve had a map hung on the wall for months now, and I’m learning to locate all the cities and towns we’ll be visiting (i.e. Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, Glencoe, Fort William, Culloden, Inverness, etc.).  Christy found a phone App that allows you to overlay maps.  She put Scotland over Ohio, and they are pretty close.  Scotland is longer north-south, but Ohio is wider east-west.   When we fly from Cleveland to Edinburgh (which is Greenwich Mean Time), we will be moving eastward by 5 time zones, which will be a challenge for our body clocks to re-adjust to.

But my real question is, how far north is Scotland?  The best way to compare is with parallels of latitude.  Sitting here in Cleveland, I am at 41.5 degrees North.  I looked up Caribou, Maine, the most northeasterly town in the “lower 48”.  Maine is pretty far north, right?  It sits at 46.8 degrees North.  The US-Canada border, running west from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean is on the 49th parallel.  Edinburgh, Scotland is even further north, at 56 degrees North.  And Inverness, our northernmost destination for this trip, is at 57.4 degrees North.  So all of Scotland is north of the “lower 48”.  You have to go north to the Alaskan panhandle (which we did on a cruise back in 1992) to find cities at similar latitudes.  The first stop on that cruise, after sailing north all night from Vancouver, BC, was Ketchikan, Alaska, at 55.3 degrees north.  Traveling further north, we spent a day in the capital of Alaska, Juneau, at 58.3 degrees north.  Edinburgh and Inverness fit right between those two.

And why does “more north” matter anyway?  Because for this half of the year (between the Spring and Fall Equinoxes), the further north you go, the more hours of daylight you get.  Today in Cleveland there were 14 hours 4 minutes of daylight between sunrise and sunset.  Today in Edinburgh (assuming it wasn’t raining, which it has been) they had 15 hours 28 minutes of daylight.  Which means we get an extra 1 hour and 24 minutes everyday, to squeeze in more sightseeing.  If we still have any energy left.

Thoughts on Scotland

These last two months have seen us busily preparing for our trip to Scotland. Being slightly OCD, we have had lists upon lists. We scoured Rick Steves, Fodors and Frommers from the library, deciding ultimately to buy Fodors as our go to book. They had a ten day itinerary, which we modified to suit our needs. We also bought a tour book of Europe from AAA, but it was pretty useless. Their tour books for the states are good and free, but this one was so general as to be good for nothing.

The staging area in the living room

🎶All our bags are packed, we’re ready to go🎶

What we’re doing in Scotland

We had lists of things to do in Scotland, things that were free (hey, we’re related to Dan), things that cost, how much they’ve cost, conversion to pounds sterling, Google directions, even though we bought a Garmin from EBay with UK, Europe, and USA maps for the cost of rental there. I figure, if the car rental people never have the car you reserved (SEE ALSO: Why you’re foolish to rent a “standard” car), what are the odds that they would have the GPS we ordered?

We had lists of what not to forget, things to do before we left, and things to do on arrival. We had folders for attractions, car rental, directions, airplane info and boarding passes, and hotel reservations. I think that covers about everything.
This was our first time flying business class, and David’s first trip to Europe. We were looking forward to trying out all the perks that came with that distinction.

(SEE ALSO: Aer Lingus Business Class review to …. FLIGHT CANCELED?!!?)

Arriving at the airport to check-in

Our check-in at the United counter in Cleveland was great with no wait. The counter attendant was nice and answered all our questions…like how to navigate customs in Dublin with our carryons, and then customs in Edinburgh with our checked luggage. I got a wheelchair promptly, but then was left in a queue (I am practicing speaking British) for 25 minutes. The slowest walker in the world finally took us, but despite each of us telling him we had TSA Pre, and me asking him “why” we weren’t going to the Precheck lane, he insisted on taking us through the the regular long line. My theory is that he would have had to walk farther to use the Precheck lane. The first TSA agent didn’t catch that we were Precheck, so we had to take off our shoes, etc. At the next agent, she wouldn’t let us through until another agent went to the first agent and got a slip of paper saying “precheck”. Then, they repeated the process with David. The second agent was awesome. Because of the wait in the queue, the slow walker, and the longer TSA checkpoint, we were unable to check out the United Club in Cleveland, even though it was close to the gate.

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