Exploring Different Colors of UK

It was the time again to pack the bags for most awaited international journey along with whole family. This time we had London, Inverness and Edinburgh on our list.

The first step was to get the visa. As per our initial plan we were supposed to travel in the month of January, but due to delay of one day in Visa processing we had to reschedule whole plan and had to move it in the month of February. And in this process we had to re-book the flights and apartments.

As per the new Visa rules, Multiple Entry Standard Visa of 6months duration has replaced many of the earlier Visas for UK. We filled up the application through https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa. The website provides facility to upload all scanned documents. It’s better to keep all the documents scanned for upload, else for scanning at the time of appointment at Visa service provider location you will have to pay for every application.

After submitting form on UK Govt’s website we were diverted to website of Visa Service center of our city, which was VfsGlobal in our case. We got an appointment from VfsGlobal and visited to complete the formalities. The UK Visa application costs ₹9206. If you opt for home delivery or SMS services for status then you have to pay additional service amount at Service center. Also you need to have a gap of at least 15working days between application submission at Service Center and your travel dates.

After getting the Visa, now it was the time to pack up the bags for chilly winter of UK. So we spent almost 2-3weeks on shopping, and then we were ready to take off. But wait, there are no direct flights from Pune. As i told earlier we had to reschedule the flights, our earlier flight was of Srilankan airlines which we cancelled after Visa delay and now opted for Emirates flight. If you are moving from one city to another then it’s time saving and economical to book with Multi-City option from Airlines or other Travel portals. In our Itinerary London was the point of arrival and Edinburgh was point of departure, so accordingly we booked our flight. We booked our flight from yatra.com, which provided us an amazing discount.

Our journey started from Pune to Mumbai by cab. After 4hrs of journey we reached beautiful Shree Chatrapati Shivaji Majaraj International Airport of Mumbai. At the start of journey we had thought that we will have good amount of time at Mumbai Airport for relax. But Check-in process took a good amount of time and we had only 20mins in spare before boarding time. Our flight route was from Mumbai to Dubai and from Dubai to London (Heathrow airport). London is a big city and has 6 major airports, so while booking your flight have a look on which airport you will land.

If you want to have a look around of Mumbai airport then follow the video link below.

Mumbai Airport

Day 0: After a journey of around 12hours by air from Mumbai to London via Dubai, we reached Heathrow airport around 12PM. The next step was to reach to our apartment and rest for the day. The journey by Tube(City Train) was quiet hectic. To save time we opted for a short route with change of train at two stations as suggested by information desk at Airport, but it turned out to be more time consuming because of platform changes as there were no elevators or lifts at those small stations and we were having lot of luggage. At the end we reached our apartment in Croxley. We had booked this apartment through Airbnb. The apartment was nice and clean with calm neighborhood and good space for a family of 5members.

Croxley is a small sub-urb around 30Kms North West of Central London. But the place was calm and beautiful with a beautiful Canal having some boats behind our apartment.

Croxley – Beautiful Landscape

After traveling for a 2-3times by Tube we realized that the Tube maps provide all information about availability of lifts on platforms. Some platforms are step free from street till train and some are step free from street till platform. As we had our infant daughter and parents with us so later on we planned our train changes according to this. For traveling through the Tube, we had purchase Oyster Travel Card from Heathrow airport itself. The Oyster card can be charged for as much you need at Charging points on stations. For Entry and Exit then you have to simply tap it at station gates.

Tube Map

Day 1: After having a long journey from India, we thought to have our first day a bit relaxed. We had our infant daughter and our parents with us also we had planned that instead of covering many places it will be good to move at a relaxed pace with some rests in between. We started from Croxley station for Notting hill. The Tube journey was of around 50mins with a change at Baker Street station. As Croxley was on Metropolitan line and trains were operating upto Baker street only (Usually Metropolitan line goes upto Aldgate station) so we had a change at Baker street for Circle line to reach Notting hill station.

From Baker street we got next train in around 15mins for Notting hill. It was quiet a nice place with colorful homes and shops around.

After spending around an hour at Notting hill, we went for lunch at an Indian restaurant, however the food was not that good. Somehow we took our lunch their and moved ahead for Sky Garden.

When we had searched for information about Sky Garden we came to know that the Entry is free, but after going there we came to know even though entry is free, one has to reserve free entry ticket 3Weeks in advance. Unfortunately we didn’t had this much time to reserve a ticket for next visit. As we were waiting outside the building strong chilly wind started and then we had to seek shelter in nearby Tesco mall till the wind slowed down.

Heavy winds near Sky Garden

After spending around an hour at the mall and having a cup of coffee, we started out journey back to our apartment. The first day was a bit lazy day for us with just a glimpse of few places.

On the way back we had a walk from the London bridge towards the London Bridge Tube station and had the magnificent view of Tower Bridge.

Day 2: We started our Day-2 with China town. We expected that it will be quiet good place to spend couple of hours with many things to see. However we were little disappointed, as it was a small market mostly with restaurants, few bakery and other shops.

There was an interesting Ice-Cream shop offering variety of Ice-creams in Bubble wraps. We tried out two flavors, one with Banana toppings and another one with nuts.

Then we moved in to PizzaExpress to try out some Veg-Pizza. The Pizza size was quiet descent with good taste.

After having our Pizza break we moved on for our next destination, which was National Gallery. The Entry for National Gallery is free. The gallery showcases the paintings from various painters. Its a quiet huge gallery which need at least 3 hours to cover.

Exit of National Gallery

As we moved out of National Gallery, we realized that are next to Trafalgar square. The place was quiet full of tourist with soothing weather to spent some time here. There were many artists showcasing their talent.

Trafalgar Square

Day 3: From the Day-3 we were going to use The London Pass. We had purchased the London Pass online from India only. The London pass covers around 80 attractions, along with hop-on-hop-off bus and Cruise rides . You can opt for number of day you want to use the pass and cost will be according to that. But take care the number of days are counted by date and not by hour. So if you start using a 3Day card either at 8AM or 8PM on 20th March, it will expire on 22nd March midnight.

You can click The London Pass to go to website.

We started our travel with Tower of London as first destination. Nearest Tube station to Tower of London is Tower Hill Station. Unfortunately it was a rainy day due with strong winds due to which it was difficult to roam around and to see the places properly. We visited inside galleries to understand the history of the place. The galleries consisted of Ornaments, Jewelry, Crowns and Swords studded with Gold and Diamonds.

The next item in our list as per The London Pass was HMS Belfast, which was around 300 mtrs away from the London Tower with entry from opposite River bank. As it was Rainy and Windy so we though to take Ferry to cross the river. It took us around 15 mins to wait for the ferry and 5 mins to cross the river. For our surprise the Ferry cost was too high, the Oyster card charged us £6/person where we had expected £2/person. Nevertheless we went ahead for HMS Belfast.

It was a quiet big war ship with lot to see and to understand the life on a War ship. It was a small city in its own with different artillery, guns, along with places of entertainment and shops for the sailors. Its a nice place to visit specially along with kids.

After exploring HMS Belfast, we went for lunch. To look around for a veg restaurant was a new challenge. We looked around on google for restaurants and identified Mexican restaurant with Veg options. It was Chilango. It was around 500 mtrs from HMS Belfast and around 5mins from The Shard. We ordered there 5 Hot boxes with Rice and Nachos options. The food was quiet good in quantity and was tasteful with different beans, vegetables and sauces.

Hot Box @ Chilango

After having our lunch, we went on to visit The Tower Bridge. The Shard was nearby to the restaurant but we thought its better to visit the Tower bridge first as it has closing time of 5PM, so we went for it.

Entry to the Road side walkway on Tower bridge is free. If you want to go inside the Towers then you need a ticket which is included in the London Pass.

Then we moved on for The Shard. The closing times for The Shard are 10PM, so here you can go late evening also.

The night view of London city from The Shard was amazing. We spent here around 2 hrs and then took back the Tube for Croxley. This was the end of our Day-3.

Day 4: We started Day-4 from Victoria Tube station. We started with Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour.

We moved around City of Westminster with view of Buckingham palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar square.

After roaming around for 45mins by bus we reached St. Paul’s Cathedral and got down there. The Cathedrals was nice and beautiful. The ceiling of cathedral was looking very elegant with beautiful design.

Internal architecture at St. Paul’s Cathedral

There were lot of spiral stairs to reach to Level-2 named as Stone Gallery. It took us around 20mins to reach there. We didn’t had energy and time to go for Level-3 Golden Gallery.

After spending around 1.5hrs in the cathedral it was the time to move out and go for lunch. And again we looked around for some Veg restaurant and we found Mexican restaurant – Chilango. Then we moved in to Espresso bar to have a cup of coffee. It had some good options for chocolates but we just had a look around with our Coffee.

As we came out from the Coffee shop it had started raining heavily and we had to seek shelter outside a restaurant waiting for our Hop-On, Hop-Off bus. The wait for the bus was quite long of around 30 mins and the rain and wind had spoiled our day’s plan. However we got some beautiful views of St. Paul’s cathedral in Golden light and double Rainbow when rain stopped.

From Cathedral we went back to Tower Hill station to look for the Thames River Boat Cruise. Unfortunately the operator for London Pass – City cruises had stopped the operation for the day at 5 PM. The London pass website has only mentioned the opening times and from some other websites we had got information that it remain open till 8 PM. Now as closure time of all the attractions was reachedso we just roamed around some shops and then then went to Aldi super market to buy some food items. It was the end of our Day -4.

Day 5 : On Day-5 we started with the Cruise which we had missed on Day-4. We boarded the Cruise near the Tower Hill station at 11AM and reached near the Westminster in around 45mins. On the way we had good view of The Shard and other important buildings.

The London Eye is located near the Westminster Bridge on the other side of Cruise terminal. It takes around 10 mins by walk to reach London Eye from terminal.

As we had already booked the online tickets from Lastminute.com so we saved our 15-20mins from Ticket queue. We had to wait around 10 mins to board the Gondola. The experience of London Eye was amazing with beautiful views of London city. The ride lasts for 30mins.

After visiting The London Eye, our next destination was Kew Gardens. From Westminster Tube station we boarded the Tube for Richmond. There are two stations near Kew Gardens, one at the name of Kew Gardens and another is Richmond. We got down at Kew Gardens station and then it was a 10mins walk. The walkway to Kew Gardens was nice with beautiful shops and houses around.

The Kew Gardens is a UNESCO heritage and is rightly so. The environment was quiet relaxing with beautiful landscape. It takes around 4hrs to view this place properly.

The Garden was very beautiful with a huge variety of plantation. If you are interested in knowing about the various types of plant breed across the globe then this is the right place to spend some more time.

We spent around 3hrs at Kew Gardens till 5PM then looked around for nearby restaurants for some food. We found an Indian restaurant The Guru Tandoori inside the Watermans Theatre. It was around 15mins Bus ride from the Kew Gardens. The restaurant was quiet good, the food was quiet good in taste and the portion size was also sufficient for 4people.

After having the food, we moved on for return to Central London to roam around in some mall and then back to our apartment.

Day 6: The Day-6 brought us a pleasant surprise with mild Snow fall. The Snow fall started around 7AM and lasted for around 2hrs. It was my first time to enjoy Snow fall along with the family. Last time I was in Yokohama 2yrs back when i experienced the Snow fall.

The view around the canal was amazing, however the chilly wind was not letting us to take off the hand gloves to handle the Camera.

Croxley Snowfall

After surprising Snow fall, weather got cleared at around 11AM, and then we decided to visit few more places. The next place to visit was Leaden hall Market. If you are a fan of Harry Potter movies then might be knowing this place, Harry Potter and Rubeus Hagrid passed through Leaden-hall Market on their way to the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley in the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The market was quiet empty, however lot of restaurants were open. We opted to enter again a Mexican restaurant, Tortilla. We ordered some Nachos and Burrito here. The restaurant had quiet interesting decoration with Corona Extra empty bear bottles in the peak time of Corona virus around the globe.

Later we moved to try out a Coffee at Coco-Di-Mama. The name of the Coffee was quiet tempting and so we thought why not to try out one.

Then we moved around a bit to have some glimpses of streets of London.

The next important thing which was remaining is to have photographs with iconic Red Telephone boxes. To do this we went to Westminster. There are lot of Telephone boxes in the Westminster area. It’s like traveling in to the past for old technology.

With this our London trip was over and we had to pack our bags for our next destination.

Day 7: On the Day-7 we had to travel to Inverness as per our plan. Unfortunately we missed our Easyjet flight from Luton airport. But the next worst thing was there was no one from Easyjet customer care to provide instructions for next steps and we had to wait at Departure gates for 3 hrs. And there was no help desk from Airport service, to know about the status we had to go all the way down at Security check twice to inform the Easy jet staff to manage the next flight. We were not the only passengers who faced this behavior but many other passengers also faced this after they missed their flight, and for our surprise only Easyjet passengers were missing their flights. After 3hrs one lady attended us and took us out at the Airport Entry area to access the Easyjet service desk and Luggage collection area.

But now there was no flight on the same day, and Bus or Train travel options were not feasible due to the duration and connectivity issue. So we booked a new flight ticket for next day at 10:45AM. And instead of going out and search for a new accommodation for a night and rush again next morning for Airport we thought to stay at the Airport itself.

The Luton Airport Entry lounge was quiet okay to spend a night with few options to like WH Smith to buy food items and to have a cup of Coffee at Costa Caffee.

Day 8: After loosing a day at airport we moved on for the Inverness. After around 2hrs we were at Inverness airport. The view of the Inverness and surrounding highlands from the flight was awsome. There was lot of Snowfall in that region. Everywhere there were Snow clad mountains. But as we landed we could only see Grass lands around us. We just had a day in the Inverness and so could not make much out of it to travel outside. However the apartment we stayed in was very pretty with good hospitality by the owner.

In the late evening we went out to look around for some restaurants and there were lot of Indian Restaurants in this small city. As it was a weekend so there was lot of crowed in the restaurants and after looking in 2-3 restaurants we finally thought to have a Take away from Sam’s Indian Cuisine. The food was good in quantity and taste for a perfect ending of the day.

Day 9: As we had already lost a day, so we thought to have a early start from Inverness to Edinburg. We had already booked our bus tickets for Edinburg by Citylink Express. We started at 8:25AM by bus.

On the way from Inverness to Edinburg

This was another surprisingly amazing day, as we had started early we got the opportunity to observe the Snow everywhere around us as we made and exit from Inverness. The whole journey from Inverness till Perthshire was breathtakingly beautiful. The roads, trees, hills and valley everything was covered with snow. And the soft morning light was enhancing its beauty.

During the journey of around 3 hrs from Inverness till Perth, Snow was everywhere. We had a bus change at Perth with a gap of 1 hr. From Perth to Edinburg snow got reduced but was replaced by beautiful Grass lands and farms.

Highland cows

This whole bus journey till Edinburg was a feast to eyes and was overwhelming for us. After reaching Edinburg we went in to Dishoom Indian Restaurant. The restaurant was quiet big with good amount of information about history of Bombay. From this information restaurant it appeared that the restaurant was their for more than 70 years or might be a part of some well established restaurant chain. We tried here Nan and Mutter paneer, but the quantity was very less at a very high cost.

After that we moved in to our apartment which we had booked through AirBNB and was around 3Kms from Bus station. The apartment was nice, clean and spacious for a family or group of 5 people. This was almost end of the day for as, in the evening it was raining a little so we just went out to search nearby mall to buy some food stuff.

Day 10: We had kept only 1day for Edinburg as per our plan, we started our day with visiting to Edinburg castle. The castle was around 4Kms from our apartment and it took around 20mins by taxi. You can hire Uber or other local taxis in London as well as Edinburg by mobile app. The taxis are though costly but for a group of 4 or 5people its almost the same cost of public transport for short distances.

The Edinburg castle was quiet beautiful and was offering a good view of whole Edinburg city from top. It took us around 2hrs to explore the castle.

After castle, our next destination was Swanstone Farm. We had an expectation to see the Higland cow there. However we didn’t found the cows there. The farm was quiet huge and i think we went into slightly wrong direction towards Horse’s/Muel’s farm.

The farm was beautiful with lush green grass, and a small mountain behind with snow at the top.

View of Edinburg city from Swanstone farm

After return from Swanston farm we were feeling hungry and so we went at Indian-Nepalese restaurant named Gurkha. The restaurant is almost in the city center. The food quality and quantity was amazing.

After having food at Gurkha, we roamed around in the streets of Edinburg for some shopping and souvenirs.

This was the last day of our travel and next day we had to pack up the bags for back to India.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog and that’s why have reached till end. For your dedication and effort i can offer you a small gift from Airbnb ->> Click this link. Yo can post me queries if you have any. Also go through my blogs of other places. Leaving you with this beautiful video of our Scotland journey.

Inverness to Edinburg journey

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