Note: continued from part 1.
Monday 27th July
The next morning we had an early start as we had to be packed and out of the cottage by ten o'clock. There was much yawning and rubbing of eyes as we awoke Aurora and stoically got on with the packing.
Eventually we were on our way up the A1 towards Newcastle, our overnight stop en route to Edinburgh. Since it was a relatively short drive we decided to stop off at another English Heritage property, Brodsworth Hall.
As we pulled into the car park it looked like we'd chosen well - the visitor centre looked modern and had swishy sliding doors, which is usually a good sign that it's a popular choice. We also discovered that we'd chosen a good week to visit - they'd set up an Alice in Wonderland treasure hunt around the gardens and we were duly issues with a log sheet for Aurora to stamp at each location (with a little help).
We strolled across the manicured lawns and discovered the final Alice in Wonderland character along the way. Michelle was nowhere to be seen, but I was fairly sure she'd wondered off for a cup of tea so we headed off to join her.
The entrance was a handily short dash away and soon we were inside, hoping that Aurora might perhaps be a little better behaved than at Hardwick.
Brodsworth Hall is one of the most complete surviving examples of a Victorian country house in England. It is virtually unchanged since the 1860s. It was designed in the Italianate style by the London architect Philip Wilkinson, then 26 years old.
As it turns out she wasn't totally keen on the place, but she was quite content as long as she was moving through quite quickly. Michelle ended up taking her on ahead a little bit while I spent a little time admiring the library, separated from the west hall by an interior stained glass window, cunningly lined up with the exterior window in the opposite room so as to spread the light rather effectively.
At this point I followed on after Michelle, who'd already been dragged upstairs by Aurora.
It turned out that the ladies had located a play room and when I caught up to them Aurora was happily loading bricks on and off a tipper truck, wearing a considerably more fashionable hat than your typical building site foreman. Since Michelle had been rushed through rather, I hung around playing while she went back and took a look.
There was quite a bit more house to explore - the bedrooms were all faithfully laid out and then we carried on into the servants wing and down to the kitchens.
Tuesday 28th July
There's precious little to say about the Preimer Inn in Newcastle. The exterior looked like a building site, it rained the whole time and there wasn't a bath tub - but the food was hot and the beer was wet.
After a very quiet journey up the A1, puctuated only by the odd snores from Michelle and Aurora, we arrived at Edinburgh. We spent a little while relaxing in the room and then I decided to take Aurora out for a walk to help her burn off a little energy. Michelle stayed behind to knit and relax for awhile.
With a little help from my phone we wended our way on a route towards the centre of town, seeing a few sights along the way.
After a few twists and turns down the backstreets we arrived at Princes Street Gardens where I thought it was safe enough to let Aurora have a run around.
Off to the side and down some steps a small courtyard lay before the western defences, with another fantastic view over the city.
After taking in the palace we headed back down, taking in the sights of David's Tower and the Forewall Battery along the way.
Thursday 30th July
On the final day we'd planned to take a trip to Edinburgh Zoo. After a short walk and bus ride we were standing outside of the entrance and it became obvious that we were far from the only ones with the same idea.
Despite having prepaid tickets there was no avoiding the queue this time, but it didn't take all that long for us to get inside and start to walk around. Aurora had been very excited about the whole thing, but as it happened she ended up being more interested in the rides, playgrounds and other children then the animals! Still, with a combination of encouragement, cajoling and strategically timed ice-creams we did manage to see quite a few of the animals.
Michelle had booked a time slot to see the giant pandas currently on loan to Edinburgh Zoo from China and it was a good job too - since the female is suspected to be pregnant right now, only those with pre-booked tickets were being allowed to view the enclosure. The female was tucked safely away out of sight, but we still got to watch the male stuffing his face.
After the panda enclosure we headed back to the penguins for the "Penguin Parade", where the door to the enclosure is opened and the penguins allowed to do a little tour in front of the watching crowds if they wish. As it turned out just a single penguin decided to play along on the day and by this point Aurora had more or less lost interest so we left Michelle to watch while I took her back to the playground.
I did eventually manage to tear her away from the playground eventually and we made our way to the insect house, where all manner of creepy crawlies were on display.
We spent the rest of the day meandering around the zoo and by the time we were getting tired we still hadn't seen probably more than half of the animals - still, there's little point in dragging Aurora round once she's tired so we decided to head home.