After yesterday's epic hike (and resultant sore muscles) we set our sights on a bit of leisurely sightseeing with an outing to Aberdeen; a location we had never visited before on previous trips. I'm not sure what I expected but it was not the bustling, vibrant and surprisingly attractive city.
Parking up at the huge Loch Street car park we started with a spot of shopping (and a comfort stop) at the Bon-Accord and St. Nicholas centres we headed for Union Street with the purpose of finding somewhere for lunch. If our previous attempt to find Pizza Express while in Dundee was a dismal failure, we struck gold in Aberdeen with a choice of two almost within sight of each other. Being Monday the lunchtime patronage was light and soon we were enjoying our long awaited pizza experience at our favourite pizza restaurant in the UK. I even indulged in a Dolcetti - a mini-sized rasperry sorbet served with a mocha coffee. Yum!
Fuelled appropriately we headed back out onto Union Street, the Granite Mile. The street is as straight as an arrow and seems to go on forever in either direction - at a wild guess I'd say it was about a mile long . We walked the length of the main drag and back again, up one side of the street and then down the other. Lots of little shopping arcades but nothing really out of the ordinary, although we did spend quite some time in the Waterstones in Trinity Arcade. Credit to me that I exercised a huge amount of self-control and exited with nothing. As a rule I end up having to find room in my already maximum weight luggage for even more paper products to add to my collection of notebooks and writing instruments at home.
We took a walk down to the harbour where the huge Northlink ferry that goes to the Lerwick in the Shetlands was berthed. The wind, which already had a keen edge to it, ramped up a notch down at the harbour-side and we kept up a brisk walk to maintain a bit of body heat. Circling round we arrived back at Union Square and headed back for the Bon-Accord Centre. My only purchase ended up being a pair of fleecy-lined hand-knitted booties from Next which, incidentally, are at this very moment keeping my toes very warm and cosy! Alex came away with some new jeans and a pair of reindeer slipper-socks (complete with antlers).
We made a quick stop at the Tourist Information Centre and Alex spied a brochure for Dean's Shortbread factory in Huntly and announced: "I want to go there." So, in spite of Huntly being about an hour's drive from Aberdeen and the fact that the place closed at 5pm, we collected the car and set out to drive still further north for a spot of shortbread.
We arrived at Dean's, with 45 minutes to spare before they closed, at 4.15pm. Wandering around the nice little shop we picked up a few assorted bits of shortbread and biscuits. I almost bought a genuine Harris tweed wallet but decided that it was really quite ugly and wondered how anyone could actually wear something made of that incredibly rough and scratchy fabric! Not that I intended to wear the wallet of course, just musing on the properties of the material
In typical fashion, we then decided that rather than just retrace our steps to Aberdeen it would be nice to drive back along the north-east Moray coastal route between Elgin and Fraserburgh. We drove up through Keith and hit the coast around Buckie, driving through Cullen and Banff, before turning south again just before Fraserburgh. Cullen proved to be a pretty little village with a nice harbour and sea frontage so we stopped to take in the view and took a short but brisk walk for a breath of bracing sea air. Ditto for Banff where we stopped at the harbour and took some photos. These northern fishing ports have an air of history about them; lovely old stone buildings and a sense of calm, although I did wonder how different the scene would look in stormy weather with rough seas pounding the coastline. We were lucky that it was a beautiful sunny day and visibility was clear.
It's obvious that this is a busy time of year for farmers and we saw activity everywhere from harvesting grain, to baling hay and the roads were full of tractors and other assorted farm machinary holding up the the works for the mostpart! It was on dusk before many of them were leaving the fields and I'm guessing that at this time of year the farmers work from first light to sunset to make the most of the daylight hours while getting the harvest in.
Finally turning for home we meandered through the countryside and back, through Aberdeen, down the coast past Stonehaven and finally arriving in Blairgowrie in the dark (but only just) at 8.30 pm.
Our day in Aberdeen had turned into something of an epic road-trip but overall it was as awesome day.