We have returned from our epic family adventure in the UK, only to find ourselves quickly sucked back into the hectic world of our everyday lives. We spent two weeks tromping through the cobble-stoned streets of Dublin, hopping the tubes of London, and meandering the wilds of Scotland, and it was GLORIOUS.

I have tons of pictures, but in an effort not to send you in to a photographic coma, I’m opting to share only a few.

This was the night view from our flat beside the River Liffey in Dublin. Dublin was a blast. Not only was it a world cooler than the burning furnace of Phoenix, but having never been, I was busy making myself dizzy trying to see everything. We took a couple of stunning day trips when we weren’t making our way through Trinity College, various churches, museums, castles and distilleries (Jameson and Guinness, respectively). The Cliffs of Moher took my breath away (not just because of the hike or the heart-pounding walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge) but there is a wildness to the western coast of Ireland which resonated with me. Granted, come winter months I may not want to be there because, well, cold is one thing, frigid another, but still, it was wildly beautiful. We even managed to get up to Belfast, which was both heartbreaking and joyful. So much history, so many stories to make you ache.

As we wanted to ensure our boys experienced every mode of transpo available, we ferried then trained our way from Dublin, along the coast of Wales, to London. Much has changed in 21 years. Some of the sites have been updated (Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, Stonehenge) and some stay just as wondrous as before (British National Museum of History, Westminster, Bath) but this time around, we had the boys choose some of our stops. We hit Churchill’s War Rooms, the HMS Belfast, walked through St. James’ Park, found Globe Theater, made a side trip to Leeds Castle, and even added a few more churches to our itinerary. One of my favorite moments? When I got hang out with my dear friend and fellow writer, Nana Prah. Best. Day. Ever.

We spent the longest time in London to ensure the boys got to hit all that is London, before we headed to Edinburgh, Scotland. My phone decided to remain in London a bit longer before making its way home, so my picture file isn’t quite as full. However, I did manage to appropriate cameras from the three men in my group. As a country mouse at heart, Edinburgh nudged Dublin over a smidge in my heart. Granted, everything is built on a hill, but I loved the town. A short distance from our flat was Colton Hill, one of the first national parks in Scotland. The views were just…well, even pictures don’t do it justice. We only spent a short time in Scotland, but I loved every minute. Edinburgh Castle is a must for anyone going to visit. I fell in love with the three-story Tartan Woolen Mills shop which housed plaid nirvana. We ventured outside of Edinburgh and around Loch Lomond where I got to hike into the highlands. I made my Knight promise next visit we’re doing Scotland and Ireland all by themselves.

This vacation was to celebrate the fact that our boys will soon be out in the adult world, and we wanted to give them an experience they wouldn’t forget and a taste of what lies beyond the familiar. Two weeks we spent walking through the UK (Knight’s pedometer clocked us at roughly 100 miles), phones became cameras instead of addicting newsfeeds/gaming portals, we oh’d and ah’d over centuries of history as they came alive, we created memories we’ll cherish forever, and starred in stories we’ll share over and over. Two years of scrimping and saving and planning, with another stretch to pay off the last of it, and I can honestly say—BEST FAMILY VACATION EVER!

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