A leisurely start to the day with porridge for breakfast as we watched the antics of the cows and sheep in the neighbouring field, and the birds swooping in on the treats and seed I had put out in the birdhouse. It always amazes me how quickly they discover the food and spread the word! Before long a dozen little birds were feasting around the bird-feeder as a couple of crows looked on from the tree.
Today Aberdeen was our first scheduled stop and we departed Lower Towie under an overcast sky but with promise of finer weather later in the day. It was chilly but, as always in Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather only the wrong clothing so we took appropriate measures and layered up with the added precaution of stowing jackets in the car - just in case.
It was only a flying visit to Aberdeen to find a 3 Mobile shop and get Alex's mobile up and running. Before that though it was a stroll through the Bon Accord centre with a comfort stop and a break for coffee and a muffin at Pret-a-Mange. The coffee was a disappointment; obviously a latte in Scotland is not the same as a latte in Australia. Mine was supposed to be Orange Spice latte but in my terms it was a flat white flavoured mildly with orange and spice, Alex ordered a hazelnut latte and got a flat white but seemed to be missing the hazelnut. Coffee culture has truly not yet caught on in Scotland. The muffin was nice though.
We then walked past Marischal College then across to Union Street walking first up one side and then back down the other. I had forgotten how many people still smoke in Scotland and it wasn't the most pleasant of strolls inhaling other peoples' smoke but we were at least entertained for a few minutes by two men who, for some unfathomable reason to anyone witnessing the altercation, began to roundly abuse each other as they passed one another in the street as only Scotsmen can. The tirade from one of the men, a skinny little thing wearing large headphones, was worthy of a Billy Connolly skit. The funniest thing was that they kept abusing each other as they walked in opposite directions along Union Street until they were out of earshot. Then it was back to the Bon Accord centre where we checked out the Disney shop and then sducked into a shop selling scented candles to buy a Sweet Apple scented Yankee Candle which Alex thought might deter the midges (but in any case would make the house smell nice) before buying some lunch-to-go at Pret-a-Mange and heading up the coast toward Fraserburgh.
We followed the sinuous coastal route (which is often several miles from the coast) and travelled through farmland in the process of being harvested. The sky had brightened and the cloud dissipated to reveal blue skies by the time we stopped for lunch at Cruden Bay. The road terminated at a tiny harbour where we sat at a picnic table overlooking the beach while we ate. The wind was decidedly and I was obliged to add another layer of clothing to keep out the wind before strolled through the village to get to the beach. Interestingly the village was the site of a battle between Vikings and Scots in 1014 which took place on what is now the golf course. King Malcolm II and Canute of the Danes came to blows with the Scots taking the victory. Having had his butt kicked at this particular battle Canute withdrew but was to ultimately become King of England.
Refreshed after the comfort stop it was time to continue along the coast to Fraserburgh. In one of the happy accidents of travel we noticed a sign for The Scottish Lighthouses Museum and immediately turned to follow the signs as we both love lighthouses. It was late in the afternoon and we arrived just in time to take the last guided tour of the day through the Kinnaird Head lighthouse.
Kinnaird Head is unique among lighthouses as it is the first lighthouse build in Scotland and it is built as part of an existing medieval castle. We had fiftenn minutes to briefly look at the exhibits in the museum before following our tour guide, Adele, to the lighthouse; being the only two people in the tour group we had her undivided attention.
It was interesting to find out that the lighthouse only closed in 1997 when it was replaced by a new automated lighthouse which sits slightly apart from the existing one. After learning all the chores the lighthouse keepers were obliged to undertake, especially in the days of the paraffin-fuelled lamps, I decided that it wasn't such a glamourous job - especially the winding of the 30kg counterweight from the bottom of the lighthouse every thirty minutes to keep the lamp turning!
Climbing to the top wasn't too bad up the winding steps but the ladder up to the lamp wasn't my idea of fun, especially wearing a backpack. Of course I had to embarrass myself by tripping on the last rung. Getting back down wasn't as bad as I thought and we were soon on the ground again where Adele left us to look around the lighthouse keepers' accommodation and the engine room where you could hear a demonstration of the fog horn.
Continuing along the coastal route we passed the old fishing villages of Sandhaven, Pennan, Crovie, & Gardenstown, each clinging to a narrow strip of land at the very edge of the coast, then onto Macduff and Banff where we turned for home.
Once again it was early evening by the time we pulled into the drive of the steading after a very pleasant day investigating the Moray Coast. Then, to end the day a relaxing cider and dinner.
To top off the day we were treated to a display of the Northern Lights, a phenomenon we have eagerly hoped for on each of our visits to Scotland. The sky was alight with yellow and red in a wide band visible just above the horizon and the sight is truly something to behold. Alex managed to take some photos but my new camera refused to capture anything. (I'm now regretting not bringing my old Nikon). Of course are now hoping for more sightings as the atmospheric conditions are obviously right. Alex is monitoring the electromagnetic activity on an iPhone app that indicates when the aurora is likely to appear, so we shall be keeping our eyes peeled every night.