From June 13th to the 20th, I was in Scotland with the husband. Husband had a class in Aberdeen for work, so I had a great excuse to go and play tourist. The flights getting there were a little weird – I left from Philadelphia on Saturday and ended up at the hotel in Aberdeen on Sunday with the husband coming from Angola (Africa) straight from work, arriving a few hours after me.
Once settled, we went into town for dinner and wound up at Old Blackfriars for food and their incredible selection of cask ales. Went back to the hotel and had a hard time falling asleep since the sun set and rise times are drastically different from those near Philadelphia. The sun set at about 11pm and rose around 4am – we get about 9pm for the set and 5:30 for the rise. The hotel’s black-out curtains did the trick though and we finally got some shut-eye.
Monday I took my time to explore the city. Picked up a walking tour map from the tourism office and walked all over town, stopping off at the Duthie Park winter gardens. By that point, I had made a HUGE circle around the city and was pretty hungry. Thankfully, the husband called up and came into town for dinner. We ended up at the Illicit Still for some neat atmosphere and great food.
Tuesday was spent on a castle tour in the local area. Picked up the van outside the tourist office and went immediately to Crathes Castle and gardens. Sadly, no photos were allowed inside the castle, but it was really neat to wander around and check out the rooms. Outside was a beautiful garden that was in perfect bloom – talk about the right time to visit! Then we went on to Stonehaven to wander around and check out the little fishing village. I was able to take a walk out to the beach and dip my toes in the north sea. It felt like ice water, but the view of the surrounding area from there was really gorgeous and it was nice to be alone on the windy beach and just take it all in. Then we were on to Dunnottar Castle – a big ruin on a cliff with the waves crashing around you. Very dramatic. Also dramatic was the ridiculous staircase that led you down to the bottom of the cliff and then back up into the castle (lather, rinse, repeat to get back to the van). 100% worth it though and I got some incredible photos. Got back into Aberdeen and met up with the husband at the hotel for dinner along with two of his classmates for a relaxed evening.
Wednesday was the rainy day, so I took a quick trip out to Wool for Ewe to check out the local yarn store. From there I went to the Maritime Museum and the Art Museum to try and stay out of the cold and wet weather. Also did a little bit of tourist shopping and finally went back to the hotel again for dinner with the husband and his classmates.
Thursday I took the train out to Inverness and went on a tour with Jacobite Cruises after doing some shopping around the Victorian Market. I picked up the bus in the center of town and took it down to the boat dock while a guide gave us a history of Loch Ness and some of the mystery behind the monster said to inhabit the huge freshwater lake. Sadly, we didn’t see Nessie during our half hour cruise, but we ended up at Urquhart Castle so I guess that was okay. The castle was another huge ruin and I had just enough time to run around with the camera and get some great photos. After a short video on the history of the castle, I was back on the bus and taken into Inverness again just in time to catch my train to Aberdeen. Got back to Aberdeen around 7pm and found the husband at the Irish pub, Malones (yep, Irish pub, in Scotland). We went over to Slains Castle Pub which was inside an old cathedral. Really neat ambiance – the sort of place you’d expect Dracula to show up for dinner. Then I went over to the Belmont Cinema Cafe to meet up with the Aberdeen Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group. Got in about a half hour of knitting (I showed up late) and then went back to Slains to meet up with the husband and go back to the hotel.
Friday, the husband was done with class for the week and we had scheduled a whisky tour, but it ended up being cancelled due to lack of interest (meaning, we were the only people who wanted to go on a whisky tasting tour on Friday, geez people). We got on the train and ended up in Keith at the Strathisla distillery, the oldest constantly running legal distillery in Scotland. Most of their whisky goes into the Chivas Regal blends, but we got to sample some of the distillery’s whisky that they sold outside of the Chivas brand. A lot of the beer brewing knowledge we have helped us appreciate the tour more and understand the whole thing better. We brought home a bottle of cask strength whisky that was aged in a sherry barrel. Did a quick lunch in town and then went back to the hotel where the husband went straight to bed while I went down and grabbed dinner at the hotel’s bar.
Saturday was up early and on the plane back to home.
A few other things of note about the trip:
Seagulls. Aberdeen has lots of them, and they’re the BIGGEST seagulls I have ever seen in my life. I’m fairly sure they could eat most small dogs for dinner and not blink twice. They’ve been known to go on shoplifting sprees and attack people for whatever food they’re holding. There’s even a facebook group dedicated to their demise.
Temperatures were about 60F for the high and only about 50F for the low. The north sea pumps out some cold air that keeps the temperatures steadily cool. There was only one day that it rained all day, Wednesday, but most days would give you a few brief periods of rain mixed with sun. They say that if you don’t like the weather in Scotland, just wait 15 minutes – it’ll change.
To make things easier, the husband and I picked up a pre-paid SIM card for our phones at T-Mobile in Aberdeen for 5GBP. I got a week’s free internet access which helped me out A LOT with the G1 phone I’ve got – I was able to pull up google maps wherever we were and know exactly where I was and where to go. When the husband finished his classes, he’d call, we’d meet up, and it made life SO much easier. Definitely worth the money.
The exchange rate sucked. 1.62 GBP to the US dollar. And most of the prices, say a pair of jeans was 24.99 GBP.. about what you’d expect to pay for the same jeans in USD, just take out the pound sign and put in the dollar sign. But NO! No. The exhange rate made them 1.62 times more expensive.
Just a few photos here, the rest are in this set on flickr.