Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh – Part 3

Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh – Part 3

Last week in – Part 2 – I spoke about driving the coastal and highland tourist routes. The week before in – Part 1 – I spoke about the city of Aberdeen.

Vintage bikes in Banchory

We gave up on finding stone circles for a while and made it in time for a quick cup of coffee with the biker friend in Banchory – before heading off again. Along the Royal Deeside route are yet more gorgeous villages such as Braemar, Blairgowrie and Pitlochry. In the cooler months the mountains in the Cairgorms are covered with snow and there are – ski resorts. The last two winters in Scotland, 2010 and 2011, have seen plenty snow. In summer people come to climb the munros, cycle the hills, canoe up and down the River Dee or go fishing – read more – here. What is a munro you ask? Follow – this link – to find out.

Balmoral Castle

Look out for indigenous – red deer along the way and of course the cutest ever shaggy – Highland cows which are farmed in the area.

River Dee

One of the must-sees on this trip was Balmoral Castle. It was apparently Queen Victoria’s favoutite home and still much loved by the current Queen Elizabeth. It’s only open April to July when the royal family aren’t in residence. Read more – Balmoral Castle. I would allow at very least two hours to walkabout and watch a plethora of presentations. Avoid the cafe if you can. My Swedish friend had the very worst burger of his entire life there. A floppy white bun with a mingy piece of meat. That was it! He was bitterly disappointed.

Croft Moraig Stone Circle

At Braemar we popped into the tourism office and asked where we could find stone circles en route to Edinburgh. The young lady was somewhat surprised by our request but she found info on the internet and set us on the road to find –  Croft Moraig. Happiness!! We found a stone circle. Unfortunately so did another party of other people together with a bunch of children. They spread themselves all over the place and these kids were charging and leaping about the stones making it hard for us to get a

picture. But we did. We ticked stones off our to-do list and headed for Edinburgh.

The smaller roads in Scotland and the UK are mostly narrow, windy and single lanes. There are few emergency zones or places to pull over. We got stuck behind tractors, slow cars and trucks most of the time and our journey took a lot longer than we anticipated.

Croft Moraig Stone Circle

We finally got to Edinburgh at 18.00pm. Fortunately in summer the sun goes down very late in Scotland so we knew we could afford to take our time.

I booked a budget hotel in Pilrig Street in Edinburgh with – booking.com – as it had parking for our car and also because it was walking distance to town. The room cost £52 per night. When we arrived at this place my heart sank into my stomach. The reception area looked dreadful. Fortunately the room wasn’t bad and the bloke at reception was well meaning and helpful.

By now we were starving hungry and we took a walk to Port of Leith which was about 2 kilometers away. There are lots and lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the area. Mostly seafood and steak type places. ( a vegetarian sigh!) However, I had a nice meal at The Kings Wark – read about it – here.

North Bridge Edinburgh

I always skip breakfast at hotels if I can. Eating out is usually cheaper than at hotels and it’s another way to explore the city. The next morning we went in search of breakfast and we found a French Style Cafe along Leith Walk. A meal for two with coffee came to around £18. Then we hit Edinburgh on foot to see as much as we could in one day. Read about that next week.

Next week in – Part 4 – and the final part I talk about what to do in Edinburgh.

For more on Scotland visit – here.
For more on my other destinations and a few travel horror stories go to the Travel Archive Page.

Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh – Part 2

Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh – Part 2

Last week in – Part 1 – I talk about doing an Aberdeen city walking tour and shopping in Aberdeen.

River Dee near Duthie Park

Carrying on from last week and where to get healthy vegetarian food – Pret-a-Manger do great take-outs –  see their menu – here. There is a big one in Union Street and a smaller one in the Bon Accord Centre.

Walking along the old railway line

Marks and Spencer also do healthy, tasty take-out salads and meals. Plus you can pick up a great bottle of wine to go with. Read more – here. Find Markies in St Nicholas Shopping Centre.

What you absolutely have to do is visit a pub and try one of the local ales. There are microbreweries all over the UK and I would argue that the UK produces some of the best beers. Visit – CAMRA – to find out if there are any beer festivals when you are visiting. Some pubs can be a bit skanky and full of bar flies but I kind of like seeing life from all angles and hey, a great beer is a great beer, quirky company makes having it that much more interesting.

Greenie and Swedish friend

The Tourism office also gave us a printout for a walk which starts at Duthie Park and runs along the River Dee. Read about it – here. Duthie Park has a free indoor garden that grows just about everything.    We intended to
do that walk the next day. But we had a slow start and decided to rather walk along the
old railway line – from Duthie Park in Aberdeen to Cults which is about 6.5 kilometers. Fitter people can walk all the way to Peterculter [pronounced Peter Cooter], add another 6 kilometers. The walk allows you to see the outskirts of Aberdeen and villages like Cults or Peterculter, but also to see trees, birds, farms and natural scenery of the area.

Stonehaven

At Cults we had lunch and then we walked back in the drizzle. I have to mention that Aberdeen is not a sunshine destination. Even when the mercury is reaching 27’C in Glasgow, Aberdeen is significantly cooler, and often cloudy. This has to do with a coastal fog that occurs in eastern Scotland known as The Haar. In essence the east coast of Scotland has it’s own little micro climate. Read more – here.

The upside of this is that the east coast has less of a problem with midges. Coming from Africa where we have deadly mosquitoes and insects, I scoffed when the Scots moaned about midges. Until one hot day I got eaten alive and had a bad reaction to them. Read more – here

Dunnotter Castle

We hired a car from here on and the next full day we drove the coastal route taking in old fishing villages such as Stonehaven, Montrose and Arbroath, finally finishing in the fourth largest city – Dundee. Whether you drive north or south, you encounter these picturesque little villages, castles, ruins, harbours with fishing boats and rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. We stopped at – Dunnottar Castle – and walked along the cliffs. It’s a full day out. Read more about the area – Coastal Route. Golf lovers might want to squeeze in a game at the home of golf in St Andrews. If you miss out, fear not, Scotland is crammed full of golf courses as you will see – here.

Arbroath

The next day we headed out to take in the – Cairngorms National Park – and the – Royal Deeside – area. I was determined to find a stone circle or two as they are of interest to me and there are plenty circles, henges, cairns, barrows and all sorts of prehistoric monuments in Aberdeenshire.

The plan was to go via Inverurie to see the – Easter Aquhorthies – and then head toward Banchory to meet a friend who was doing a motor bike rally. Somehow we missed the turn-off and unfortunately stone circles are often not sign posted. Have a look at these sites before your trip to make sure you locate the stone circles before you leave for your journey – stone circles Aberdeenshire or – historic Scotland

Part 3 – next week deals with road trips via the Cairgorms National Park and Royal Deeside
 and in – Part 4 – I talk about Edinburgh.

For more on Scotland visit – here.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh

Scotland road trip Aberdeen to Edinburgh

Scottish Road Trip in 2012

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series. Links to the other posts are at the bottom of the page.

Union Street

I recently had a Swedish friend over to visit in Scotland. Aberdeen has (sort of) become my second home so I don’t always view the city as a visitor anymore. It was lovely to have a chance to explore this part of the world again. We only had 4 days, not a lot of time.

Market Street

I decided that we would do a walking tour of Aberdeen the first half day. We stopped in at the Tourism office in Union Street and they kindly printed out a walking tour for us. Just a note here. The Tourism office is not open all day, every day. They open later than most of the other shops in the area, they close for lunch, half-days on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays. Also there is one, maybe two people at most to help. Aberdeen is clearly not a massive tourist destination.

Union Terrace Gardens

The tour starts at Castlegate, which is the furtherest end of Union Street – not too far from the Tourism office. The walk weaves around Union Street taking in historic buildings, statues and examples of Aberdeen architecture. The printed brochure includes a map and interesting information. For more on what to do in Aberdeen read – here.

Aberdeen is known as either the Silver City or the Granite City due to the silver granite buildings that comprise most of the city. It’s the third biggest city in Scotland and is a major fishing harbour. However fishing is small fry compared to the oil industry. Aberdeen is the oil capital of all Europe.

Union Square

The walk takes around an hour and a half, depending on how long you make it. If you have time in hand, and want to include a bit of shopping, or people watching, the two main shopping malls are Union Square and the combo of St Nicholas and Bon Accord Centre, which are right next to each other.

You’ll find Union Square by going down Market Street off Union Street. Head down towards the harbour and then right into Guild Street. The other two shopping centres are behind where Market Street meets Union Street.

St Nicholas Kirk

As a greenie I love the plethora of UK charity shops which usually stock exceptionally good quality used clothing. I’ve bought an almost new Marks and Spencer leather jacket for £6. (Do vegetarians wear leather? I wear recycled leather clothes but not new. Read – this – for an interesting take.) Look out for charity shops along Union Street.
There are more of them further along Union Street and up Chapel Street. My favorite area in all Aberdeen is The Spital where Old Aberdeen is. Read about it – here.

I don’t eat out much in the UK. I find restaurants very expensive and the food is not great. Service is, sorry to say this, OK. My view is tainted by the fact that I’m vegetarian. Very rarely on my travels anywhere have I found a good vegetarian meal and most Western European places are reluctant to modify a meal to accommodate me.

Charity shops

I prefer to buy a yummy take-out and eat next to a river, in a park, on a beach or even relaxing in a hotel room. No fighting, no stress and no disappointing end to an evening.

Supermarket food is brilliant and service is usually excellent.

In Part 2 – here – I talk about where to find food. Part 3 – here  – deals with road trips via the coast, stone circles, the Cairgorms National Park and the Royal Deeside area. In Part 4 – here – I talk about Edinburgh.

For more on Scotland visit – here.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Greenie on the move

Greenie on the move

Frosted window pane

I left South Africa a week ago and spent a few days in London. From there, my other half and I did a mini road trip to Scotland. It’s mid summer back in South Africa and of course mid winter in the UK. The contrast is sharp.

South Africa never really gets that cold. There are places that get cold, but they are remote and sparsely inhabited. Snow in our cities would be front page news.

I don’t possess the sort of clothes that people from cold countries wear. Instead I am putting on just about every item of clothing I brought with me. Wearing all this clothing is so freaking heavy.

Frost covered garden

Salt/grit bins, snow poles, clip on ice grips for shoes, ice scrapers for car windows, bum warmers in a car and many other things people in the UK consider normal simply don’t exist in South Africa.

I always though ear muffs were daft things. Now I totally understand why people wear them. I wish they could come up with something to keep my nose warm other than wrapping a scarf around my face.

Back in South Africa they have been having a heatwave. Places like Riebeek Kasteel have apparently had temperatures in the upper forties touching 50’C. Yikes! Riebeek valley tourism.

For more on Scotland follow these links – Scotland Part One and Scotland Part Two.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Scotland Part Two

Scotland Part Two

Scottish heather

Your road trip to Edinburgh could include the Whisky Trail. Edinburgh is the capital city and home to Holyrood or the Scottish parliament. It is also the location of Edinburgh Castle. It is much, much more touristy and you will find museums and homage to all things Scottish at every turn. It all happens along the Royal Mile. There is a massive Edinburgh International Festival once a year around August called The Fringe. Think stand-up comedy and theatre. It’s a place for newcomers and old timers to show what they can do. The whole world seems to rock up for this event and if you are not inclined to mega crowds you will be glad to have missed it. If you love bagpipes you could plan to visit around the time of the Edinburgh Tattoo. Shopping in Edinburgh is not all that. Sorry to say. The shopping area in Edinburgh is Princes Street. I recommend the Haymarket area for a walkabout. Edinburgh has a few famous musicians, namely KT Tunstall, Shirley Mason of Garbage and Idlewild.

Ferry to Isle of Harris

After a day in Edinburgh you can drive to the north-east via Stirling and the castle which is geared to tourists. Swing past the Falkirk Wheel which is an engineering feat. It’s a boat-lift shaped something like The London Eye, it rotates boats in a circle in lieu of a boat lock and connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal.
Aberdeen is the third largest city. It’s a working city. Aberdeen was once a fishing village but is now the oil capital of Europe. All the buildings are built of big grey bocks of granite. The east coast is not as classically scenic as the west coast. The beauty of the eastern areas lies just inland where beautiful villages dot the area. If you cut across from Edinburgh to the east coast area you can visit quaint towns like Arbroath, Stonehaven and Montrose. Balmoral Castle, the Queens favorite, is also located in the Royal Deeside area not far from Aberdeen. You could drive up from Edinburgh via Perth and Dundee to Aberdeen. Aberdeen is also on the Megabus route and you can add on another 3 – 4 hours from Glasgow should you wish to go direct to Aberdeen. It’s a bum-numbing 12 hours from London. Aberdeen’s most famous musician is Annie Lennox.
Piper playing in central Aberdeen

Scotland has banknotes from the Royal Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank. English banknotes are accepted in Scotland but the reverse is not always the case. So make sure you spend your Scottish pounds before you leave Scotland. Scotland is not metricated so road signs and your car speedometer are in miles. Glasgow to Skye is about 200kms as the crow flies but in real time the trip will work out more than a straight journey.
Things you really should try to do while in Scotland are. Try a typical Scottish breakfast complete with black pudding. The Scots do a good and hearty breakfast. You should try vegetarian haggis if you don’t eat offal and we are led to believe the best steaks come from Scotland, the Aberdeen Angus.
Narrow country roads in Scotland

Do find a piece of family tartan. Almost everyone has a connection to a family or clan in Scotland and it makes you feel part of the country.
Please watch Scottish Star Trek on You Tube Scottish Star Trek so you can practice listening to Glaswegian patter which is nigh impossible to understand. These people are speaking English but you would never know it.
Do try the local ales. They take their beer drinking very seriously in the whole of the UK and you can spend hours browsing the supermarket shelves with the ranges on offer. Beer is not just beer. It’s a bitter, or a lager, or an ale and the brewers are masters. If beer is not your thing, then try an Iron Bru. It’s the local fizzy drink of choice. Scotland is the only European country where a cola is not the top soft drink.
St Nicholas Kirk Aberdeen

Don’t eat out too often if you can help it. It’s so expensive and often disappointing. Some pubs offer great food and good value but the UK is not known for it’s cuisine. The range of ready meals and imported fruits and cheeses in the supermarkets is staggering.
Lookout for the highland cows on your way, they’re easy to spot and are so cute and shaggy.
Try www.laterooms.com  for accommodation. You’re looking at from £50 per night for a room. Usually includes breakfast and the standard of accommodation is good in the UK.
Outsider music festival

Scotland is colder and wetter than England. It is colder in the west than the east and as you head north to Aberdeen it get’s even colder. The BBC weather site shows Edinburgh in June and July months at the height of their summer as having average 5 – 6 hours sunlight a day, average maximum temperatures as 17’C – 18’C and average monthly rainfall as much as 83 mm. The sun comes up about 04.30 am and goes down about 10.00 pm. Read more about the weather and seasons here – Scotland weather and seasons.

Stone circle Templewood

It is the opposite in winter when average day temperates are  6’C to 7 ‘C and at night it will be close to freezing. The sun comes up at 08.45 am and goes down 15.45 pm and average sunlight hours are 1 hour a day. It can be a grey country. Bands like Wet Wet Wet and Travis singing “Why does it always rain on me?” are telling us something.
It does snow in Scotland. As you drive about you will see snow poles on the sides of the roads and big yellow bins with a mix of grit and salt to melt the snow on the roads. In Aberdeen it is possible to see the Northern Lights in winter. If you have a world map handy you will see that Aberdeen is on the same latitude as Moscow. Scotland is a long way up north.
If you are going in winter pack warm and always pack a Mackintosh – aka a raincoat. Scotland is famous for it’s inventors. Some other well known  inventors apart from Mackintosh and his raincoat include James Simpson – anaesthetics, Johan Loudon MacAdam – tarred roads, Alexander Crum Brown – chemical bonds, Thomas Telford – iron bridges, Joseph Lister – antiseptics, James Boyd Dunlop – tyres, John Napier – the decimal point and Sir Alexander Flemming – penicillin. This is by no means all the Scottish inventors and a Google search will yield some surprises. The Scots are canny lot not only with their money.
Edinburgh Tattoo – tattoodonkey.com

It’s not just the country but it’s people that are so much a part of the experience. Get cracking looking up your ancestors and head north to find your roots. The next time you hear the bag pipes you can check to see if the piper is a wearing your clan tartan.

Click here to go to Scotland Part 1.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Outsider music festival – Peatbog Faeries

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