Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.
Monday & Tuesday, 26-Dec & 27 Dec.
One of the things that I’ve picked up from Sarah, in regards to adventuring, is checking out grocery stores and gas stations.
Probably not what you expected. But it’s neat – you can see what items are important to a culture, what they have in stock, what they don’t, and what variety is available. It’s cool, and you can learn a lot about where you are. Also – get great ideas for food and snacks!
But Monday didn’t start with a grocery store. It started with a snowball fight. It was thick and fluffy snow; not particularly good for packing, but very fun to run around in. And once us kids saw how much there was (a solid 3 inches or so) we suited up and ran outside to play!
Sarah and I formed one team, of course, battling against Henry & Leah on the other team. Since Sarah and I were the first ones out, we prepared a few stockpiles around the yard, giving one of them to Leah and Henry when they came out. But it pretty quickly devolved into a “grab an armful of snow from the car and chuck it” sort of battle. None of us played baseball, so none were particularly good at throwing the few snowballs we were able to make from the fluffy stuff.
The rest of the day was spent having an excellent lunch at a cafe in the grocery store, exploring said grocery store, and also exploring a pharmacy nearby. Turns out, the UK doesn’t have nearly the selection of burn medication that the US does… or maybe Sarah and I have gotten spoiled by always having first aid gear around the house (thanks to blisters being a major part of hiking… yay!).
But it was fun! Hanging out, exploring, learning that the Scots love their Indian takeaway and their venison, and having some traditional bangers and mash at the shop. We even got to see an artificial ski hill in town!
Tuesday? Adventure day. Breakfast was quick, because we had places to be! Adventures to have! Stone circles to photograph, hill forts to hike, and old ruined castles to run around and play hide and seek in.
First stop: The Eastern Aquhorthies stone circle. A small neolithic stone circle, in a beautiful bit of the Scottish countryside. We explored and took awesome pictures – one bonus of the short days, is that the sun traverses lower than we’re used to… which leads to sunrise / sunset light all day long. Excellent for cool landscape photos!
We got back on the road after exploring a bit of the forest behind the stone circle – It was also very pretty, Super dark though; I can totally see why people feel like Scotland is enchanted.
On to Dunnideer (pronounces Dun-ee-deer) castle!
- Our first attempt resolves with us driving up to a locked gate that involves calling a dispatch center to open – they make sure that no train is coming before we drive across. The lady that owns the land is (luckily) driving out when we arrive – she tells us that there’s actually a real place to walk up, but that we’re more than welcome to walk on her land, and just hop a barbed wire fence. So polite, it’s painful.
- Drive to the real place… this makes a lot more sense.
- Park, and instead of waiting for everyone, Sarah and I walk in ahead. We take the extra time to do some climbing, stealth makeouts, and enjoy ourselves before everyone arrives
- Ruins up top… are amazing. The main ruin is, surprisingly, the whole hill – it’s an ancient pictish hill fort. The bumps and hedgerows on the way up are the remains of ancient earth works. The castle ruins up top (barely anything) are a 13th century addition.
- Continue on, finding some really picturesque views and neat standing stones.
Lunch at a cool tea house… Fish and Chips finally!
Drive down to Cruden Bay; a place that Greta and Bill have been to once or twice before.
- Park, and Sarah and I take a jog in – stretching our legs is pretty good.
- The castle… this is a serious castle. Ruins, beautiful. It’s called New Slains Castle, and was built sometime in the 17th century. It was then expanded in the 19th century, and was actually where Brahm Stoker wrote Dracula.
- We’re just around Sunset… but thanks to the elevation, Sunset lasts ~1 hour +
- Sarah and I play hide and seek, amateur archeologist, and do some light bouldering around as well. Holy crap this place is amazing. Just… so cool!
- Take lots of pictures, hang out with Henry and Leah, and even get to talk to an old Scotsman for a while. Fun & pleasant adventures!
Then, we’ve got to get back to the house. The next day was planned as our travel day, taking a train down to Edinburgh. But that meant returning the rental car that they’d got from the airport (Bill & Greta only have one car normally, and fitting six people in it wouldn’t have been pleasant). That return entails a bit of adventure, but it does leave us close to a Chinese market, where we stop in to get ingredients for Henry to make us Ramen! Which is like… triple awesome. So that’s nice 🙂