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July 27th 2021
Published: July 27th 2021
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Dear All

Greetings from Aberdeen! This is my second stop on my Scotland trip this summer, and like Edinburgh, I have used it as a base not just to explore the city, but also some of the wider surrounds. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Aberdeen, and this city is just right up my street – it is a big city with good amenities, is off-the-beaten tourist track, and has a fascinating background as an oil-production centre of Europe, and thus cosmopolitan enough to be welcoming. It is also unique in its granite-based nature of the city buildings, giving the urban landscape a stone-grey and imposing texture – the granite stones actually glisten in the sunlight, which is really quite cool!

I arrived here on Saturday late afternoon, after having gotten two trains here from Edinburgh. My first train took me from Edinburgh Waverley to the city of Dundee, Scotland’s fourth-largest city, where I planned a stop-off for a couple of hours to visit a few interesting sights located there. Upon enquiring about a left-luggage facility at the station, I was directed to a “Mail Boxes Etc.” establishment next to a nearby hotel, which was unfortunately closed for
PuffinPuffinPuffin

Stonehaven Sea Safari
the weekend. I enquired again in an art shop next door, where a lovely English lady offered to keep my bag for me for the duration of my time in the city, and I offered her a £5 donation as gratitude. I don’t think this would ever happen in London!

My first stop was a visit to the city’s star attraction, an offshoot of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, opened recently in 2018 – the “V&A Dundee”. I had pre-booked a free ticket, as the only option to visit, and I must admit I am glad I didn’t pay any money to get in. The building itself really is stunning, and an iconic feature of the Dundee landscape, but there really wasn’t that much to see inside. I was partly impressed with the Scottish Design Galleries, the museum’s ongoing exhibition, and in particular an exhibit showing the classic 90s computer game “Lemmings” which I was a huge fan of, having been developed by Dundee-based video game company DMA Design. Aside from this, there were a couple of temporary exhibitions, and a paid entry exhibition on “Night Fever: Designing Club Culture”, which I chose not to part with my money for. For risk of sounding rather a culture-snob, I was not too impressed with the place, although I was glad to have visited, since it is considered Dundee’s top attraction. I was much more impressed with a short walk along the redeveloped river front, the city of Dundee being described by the Lonely Planet as having “perhaps the finest location of any Scottish city”, and this was certainly true admiring its vista over the Firth of Tay estuary to the south. The exterior of the “V&A Museum” is also stunning to contemplate, and sitting next to the RSS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery in all its glory, the very ship used by Captain Scott of the Antarctic on his journey to the South Pole, the whole Tay-side area is very attractive. Perhaps I should have parted with my money to visit the famous Antarctic-exploring ship, restored to its former glory and sitting in the city where it was originally built in 1900, but alas time was not with me for my short stop in Dundee.

From the banks of the River Tay I headed into the City Square, a little giddy with excitement I must admit. For unbeknownst to me until a few weeks ago, having recently seen a Michael Portillo’s "Great British Railway Journeys" episode on the city, Dundee is the home of journalism company DC Thomson, infinitely more known by my generation for being the producers of the Beano and Dandy comics which I was in love with as a child! And to top this all off, there is a statue of Desperate Dan himself (of Dandy fame) in City Square, with a smaller statue of Minnie the Minx (of Beano fame) behind him. This was a highlight of my day I must admit, and I had a photo taken of me there. The other highlight of my day was a visit to a nearby street a little out of the city centre, an otherwise rather non-descript street, quite short, with barely nothing of note on it, but for those in the know, the very name “Bash Street” will certainly explain why I went there. It is the supposed home of another Beano classic, “The Bash Street Kids” – probably my favourite of all features in the Beano. The street sign even had a picture of Plug and Wilfrid on it – ah, the memories! Of course, it
Crossing the Forth BridgeCrossing the Forth BridgeCrossing the Forth Bridge

On the train from Edinburgh to Dundee
goes without saying, I had my photo taken there also.

From here, I returned back into town and to the art shop to collect my backpack, and headed for the train station again, where I took my second train for the day further north, to the lovely city of Aberdeen. Unfortunately I learned on the train that I had lost my MP3 player somewhere between the train to Dundee and the train to Aberdeen, which was a bit sad I must admit. Ah well, these things happen I guess. Arriving just over an hour later at Aberdeen station, I caught a bus from there to a southern suburb of the city called Altens, right in the middle of a collection of numerous trading estates and industries seemingly related to the oil industry. My lodgings are lovely though, and I am staying in an extension to a very friendly mature couple’s bungalow with a beautiful garden. I have a whole mini-apartment to myself, with bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchen with all the mod-cons, at a bargain price cheaper than my double room with ensuite bathroom back in Edinburgh – what a treat! After a trip to a nearby
DundeeDundeeDundee

On the banks of the River Tay
Tesco to stock up on food and supplies for the week, I relaxed and called it an evening, excited for further explorations here in the north-east of Scotland.

I had an absolutely wonderful day on Sunday. I was heading south, my destination being a small coastal town, and quite a seaside resort it seems for Scottish people – the lovely town of Stonehaven. I took a bus into Aberdeen city centre, and then a longer bus journey 16 miles to the south. The town centre of Stonehaven was buzzing when I arrived, the central Market Square was hosting a car boot sale! This seems to be quite a traditionally British thing, where local people drive to an open-air car park somewhere, open up their boots, and sell all manner of second hand goods, usually of the kitchy, bric-a-brac nature. It was an atmospheric welcome to the town of Stonehaven. I took a takeaway lunch from a nearby Greggs, and walked along the beach and onto the local Catholic church, to enjoy a mid-morning sausage bap, with a nice cheery conversation with the local priest as he was opening up the church for morning mass.

From here, I began
"Lang May Yer Lum Reek""Lang May Yer Lum Reek""Lang May Yer Lum Reek"

This literally means "long may your chimney smoke", and is what Scottish people say when they want to wish others a long and happy life.
a four-mile round walk to visit two local places of interest – firstly a walk through the nearby Dunnottar Woods, managed by the Scottish Forestry Commission, and then along a quiet country lane through farmland and onto the really quite stunning ruins of the 15th century Dunnottar Castle, perched on a high coastal cliff-edge promontory overlooking both land and sea for miles around. Due to its spectacular setting, the castle also apparently provided inspiration for the family castle in the Disney-Pixar film “Brave”. After taking in the amazing views, I then headed back to Stonehaven along a lovely cliff-top path, towards the town’s harbour where I was due to take the Stonehaven Sea Safari for a two-hour boat trip in the afternoon.

This boat trip was certainly a highlight of my trip so far. It was a speedboat, which travelled the Aberdeenshire coast from Perthumie Bay in the north, to Todhead Point and Lighthouse in the south – a total distance of about 12 miles. The safari took in the spectacular cliffs of the RSPB nature reserve of Fowlsheugh, the beautiful Crawton Waterfall which empties directly into the sea and which Viking travellers apparently used to fill up their water barrels, and also Dunnottar Castle viewed from the waves. It was an exhilarating ride, with spectacular coast and sea views. We saw thousands upon thousands of sea birds – on one stretch of cliff the guide said there were around 130,000 breeding pairs of birds there! There were seagulls, kittiwakes, cormorants, guillemots and razorbills. But most wonderful of all were puffins!! I think I have fallen in love with a bird. I have never seen a puffin in the wild until this trip, although they are one of Britain’s most popular birds. They are just so cute and adorable, and I didn’t realise that they were also so tiny! They were quite skittish with the boat arriving, so it was a bit tricky to take some photos, though I have uploaded a few that I managed to take here. We also saw a number of seals: grey seals and common seals, although these were even more skittish than the puffins, so I didn’t really get a good photo of these – I have uploaded my “best” one here at least. Sadly we did not get to see any dolphins, which are also native to this stretch of coastline, but I was absolutely delighted and more than happy to see the puffins!! On the way back to harbour, we passed by some mackerel fishing boats, who quite happily offered some freshly caught free mackerel to the boat’s passengers – that was very kind of them! I sadly declined as I don’t generally eat fish.

Back on shore, I hightailed it from the harbour back into town, to catch the next bus back to Aberdeen. I noted that I could get off in southern Aberdeen, and walk just over a mile through the council estate suburb of Kincorth and the Kincorth Hill Nature Reserve to get back to my accommodation, so I did just that, and got home with plenty of time to settle into the evening and contemplate what a wonderful day I had had in Stonehaven.

Day two in Aberdeen I devoted to exploring the city. At around 200,000 inhabitants, it is Scotland’s third largest city, after Glasgow and Edinburgh, and is to my mind most famous for two things: its grey granite buildings, earning it the nickname of “The Granite City” in Scotland, and oil.

Firstly, my walk around the city certainly confirmed that pretty much every single building, from public buildings and monuments in town, to churches, commercial shopping streets, schools, houses, even council houses and shopping centres, are all constructed of exactly the same material: large grey granite blocks, taken from the Rubislaw Quarry in the western suburbs of the city, apparently the largest artificial hole in Europe at 142m deep and 120m in diameter. All this granite is really quite a unique feature of the city, I have never known any other British city to have such a uniform use of a building material – everywhere you look, grey granite. It really is quite mesmerising.

Secondly, with the UK’s oil and gas reserves in the North Sea so close by, the city began booming as an oil and gas production centre from the 1970s onwards, to become known as the “oil capital of Europe”. People from all over the country travel to Aberdeen to work on its offshore oil rigs, and the industry employs a staggering 47,000 of the city’s population, that is about one in four Aberdeeners. It is considered one of the UK’s eight “super cities” spearheading the country’s economy (along with London, Birmingham, Cambridge, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle), and Scotland’s only one. As well as council estates, the city has its fair share of mansions for the super-rich – both housing types united by the same construction material: granite.

My walk began in the city centre along the commercial Union Street, taking in notable grey granite buildings such as the Marischal College and the Salvation Army Citadel. I then headed eastwards into the sprawling dockside industrial estate, centering noticeably around the grey granite of the 19th century, now disused, East St Clement’s Church. I found it interesting that an old church building was located right in the centre of such industry, and wondered which parishioners it once served, perhaps fishermen or sailors. From here I headed northwards towards Aberdeen Beach, and was surprised to encounter several miles of a beautiful sandy beach, with even a fairground set back from the promenade. I headed northwards along the coast, from the mouth of the River Dee to the mouth of the River Don, the two rivers between which the town of Aberdeen was officially founded during the 12th century. At the River Don stands the Donmouth Local Nature Reserve, and I found a lovely bird hide from which to observe the local and plentiful birdlife. From here, a short walk inland took me to an area known as Old Aberdeen, centred around Seaton Park and the University of Aberdeen. The park and the buildings were beautiful, as was the twin-towered 15th century St Machar’s Cathedral, but I’m not sure I found the people around there awfully friendly. Until this point, I had found the local Scottish people I have met extremely friendly, welcoming and always ready to give a “morning” or a “y’alright”. Perhaps this was the snootier side of the city, I’m not sure I liked it too much. Onwards, and onto more practical travelling affairs, I headed to a nearby Argos to pick up three things I had ordered online earlier in the day: a USB stick and an SD card for my camera, as for some reason I can’t seem to free up enough storage space on my travel-laptop to store all my photos for this trip, which I was able to do in South America two years ago – these extra items seem to have done the trick though. I also bought some earphones, to replace those I lost with my MP3 player in Dundee on Saturday. Although this occurrence was quite sad, I do not like losing things, it is perhaps through such experiences that we break free from the moulds within which we enclose ourselves, and encounter something new. From this experience, I learned how to download and use the Amazon Music app on my phone, and to my amazement (I think I’m a bit slow when it comes to technological advancements), around half the CDs which I had bought from Amazon over the last ten years or so were already on there in digital format – wow!! This means that I could download many of my tracks I had on my MP3 player, and with my newly bought earphones, I can continue to listen to music as I travel, with even better sound quality it seems. It just goes to show, that when one door closes, another door often opens. I’m so pleased with this discovery!

A short walk from Argos took me to a bus stop where I could catch the bus back to my accommodation, which I did, and have now been spending the last few hours resting my aching and weary legs. I must have done around five miles of walking around Aberdeen today, and I do find that city walking with pavements and traffic is much more tiring than country walking with paths and greenery. I feel I certainly got to know Aberdeen on my second day in the city.

For my third and final day based in Aberdeen, I decided to visit the nearby town of Elgin. Well, not so nearby, it is in fact 66 miles away, and an hour and a half’s journey by train. My reasons for going are twofold. Firstly, in conversation with a few people about my trip to Scotland prior to leaving, a number of people mentioned Elgin, its name seemed to stick. I also passed a street in Sheffield the week before my trip up here, called Elgin Street, and then I realised a couple of years ago I had spent a few days in Port Elgin, Canada, on the shores of Lake Huron. The town’s name came up just too many times to ignore, I was intrigued to visit. And secondly, I wanted to visit a whisky distillery during my time up here – my first thought was to visit the Macallan Distillery, around 14 miles from Elgin, as it has become a tradition with my parents over the last few years to have a glass of Macallan Whisky when I’m in Sheffield. Sadly this distillery is only open at weekends. I found the Glen Moray distillery, one mile away from Elgin, however, open during my time of visit. Thus, my mind was made up, I was to visit Elgin and the Glen Moray whisky distillery on my final day in Aberdeen.

The train journey there was quite beautiful, skirting the Cairngorms and Grampian mountains which will be my destination for six days from tomorrow. Once in Elgin, I walked through a nearby nature park called the Wards Wildlife Site, which was quite nice, and then made my 1.30pm appointment at the Glen Moray Distillery in good time. This region of Scotland, known as Speyside as the River Spey passes through it, is classic whisky-making territory, with the brands of Aberlour, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich and even Chivas, along with Macallan and Glen Moray, finding their bases here. The waters from the River Spey, flowing down from the Cairngorms and Grampian Mountains provides the pure water, while the mild climate of the region is optimal apparently for growing the barley as a main ingredient. This reminds me of an interesting fact that I learned while learning a bit of Scots Gaelic before coming here: the word whisky comes from the Gaelic word “uisge” meaning “water”. In fact, whisky in Gaelic is “uisge beatha”, which means “life water”. Very interesting indeed!

The tour around the whisky distillery was interesting, and the malt smell was lovely. We were shown all manner of machines and distillation processes, although the exact process of making it I couldn’t quite piece together due to a combination of the guide’s not-too-clear explanations, and it being very noisy in there. However, just being there and experiencing the whisky-making process was interesting enough for me. The visit to the whisky barrel storage room, or rather a hangar, was particularly interesting, learning that oak barrels are still used to keep the whisky in as it ages for the preferred 12 years. If a barrel starts to leak, the managers are not worried at all, as the natural sap from the wooden oak barrels actually plugs the leak in due course. Each barrel holds around 700 litres of whisky, and with the price of a bottle at
Me, Desperate Dan StatueMe, Desperate Dan StatueMe, Desperate Dan Statue

City Square, Dundee
around £40 or so for a litre, each barrel is literally worth around £28,000 – that’s quite amazing! And the room had hundreds, if not thousands, of barrels in it! At the end of the tour, we had a whisky tasting session, where we were offered two whiskies: one was the classic 40 per cent alcohol content, the other a whopping 53.6 per cent. I must admit, I was very merry after knocking these two back, and my walk back into town was a breeze!

On the way back to the train station, I walked through the medieval town’s interesting centre and then stopped off to view the impressive ruins of Elgin’s medieval 13th century cathedral, built just after the town was founded in the 12th century. In 1390 though, the cathedral was burnt down by the notorious illegitimate son of King Robert II of Scotland, the Wolf of Badenoch, in retaliation for his excommunication from the church by the then Bishop of Moray. This Wolf man sounds like he must have had a few anger management issues.

I enjoyed a picnic late-lunch, which tapered the effects of the whisky somewhat, in the nearby Biblical Garden, lovingly filled
Minnie the Minx StatueMinnie the Minx StatueMinnie the Minx Statue

City Square, Dundee
with plants mentioned in the Bible. It was a peaceful spot for a rest and something to eat. After this, I headed back to the train station, and enjoyed the journey back again to Aberdeen, for my final night here before moving on tomorrow.

Indeed, tomorrow morning I head inland, where my Scottish travels take a different turn. So far I have been exploring the eastern coast of the country, mainly cities and urban areas, from Edinburgh through Dundee and on to Aberdeen. Tomorrow I head into the highlands, the Cairngorms National Park in the Grampian Mountains, for six nights. I am looking forward to exploring the famed Scottish highlands, and I aim to write up about my first few days there from a place called Ballater, in a few days’ time.

Until then, thank you for reading, and all the best for now.

Alex


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28th July 2021

Amazing
Another amazing blog. I feel like I am actually traveling there myself. !
28th July 2021

Thank you
Thank you Samuel, that's very kind of you.
28th July 2021

Dunottar Castle...
is also on our itinerary. Linda is a descendant of the Keiths. She was also a Covenantor, many of whom were imprisoned and died in the castle. We wanted to see that dungeon. However, the path to he castle appears very steep so we don't think we can handle it. It looks like you got some good pictures from a nearby hill. I hope the walk there is not too difficult. We will also visit a distillery...Balblair in Ross-shire. I am a direct descendant of the Earls of Ross, with my 6th great grandfather having been the 5th Laird of Balblair, per my most recent blog. Again, the theme of my travels will be visiting ancestors. We will rent a car so getting from place to place will be more efficient. I am enjoying your discoveries!
28th July 2021

Scottish Ancestors
I'm looking forward to reading your blogs when you're able to make your trip, Bob. Yes, the path to Dunottar Castle is very steep, I didn't make that. It's easy to get to where I got to for the photo from the car park though, and you can easily drive there. The 30-minute scenic cliff- top walk from the town of Stonehaven is fairly easy too. I passed through the town of Keith on the way to Elgin, perhaps a place where Linda's ancestors once lived. I recommend a whisky distillery visit, especially the tasting session after! I plan to pass through Ross-shire on the way to John O'Groats, I don't think I'll stop off there though. All the best Bob, and thank you for reading my blog 🙂
28th July 2021

Bonnie Scotland
Hi Alex - Enjoyed reading the blogs of your trip around Scotland - you certainly have covered so much so far and can see that you are enjoying your time on the road again. Paul and I lived just outside Edinburgh for a few years in 1970 in fact our youngest daughter, Kerry was born there and still considers herself as 'Scottish'. She is heading there in August on a 500 mile road trip with her partner. Sadly in the 70's it was not so easy to get around particularly with two young children so we did not get to see very much but am sure that we will head back that way one day. Happy Travels x Sheila. PS - glad you got to see some puffins they are such comical characters and one of my favourites ... ... ...
28th July 2021

Bonnie Scotland
Thank you Sheila 😊 Indeed, I'm finding Scotland very bonnie indeed 😊 Such a lot to see here, and such lovely people. Interesting to read about your connection to Scotland, and hope you also get to travel up here sometime too. Hope your daughter and her partner have a good time here. It was actually your blog from Wales, and amazing photos of the puffins there, that inspired me further to look for these beautiful birds. They really are so cute! 😃 Thanks for reading my blog, and all the best to you. Alex x
28th July 2021

Puffins!
How great to see puffins! The scenery on your sea safari was beautiful and looked like lots of fun too. I love the old ruined castle like Dunottar Castle. Sounds like you are having a very enjoyable time exploring Scotland :).
29th July 2021

Puffins!
Yay, thanks Lori 🙂 It was a real treat for me to see the puffins, they were just so cute! Indeed, I'm having a wonderful time exploring Scotland, there's lots to see up here. Thank you for reading my blog 🙂
30th July 2021

Puffins
So cool you got to see Puffins. They're one of my favourite birds and I was fortunate to see them a few years ago and Skomer Island. The whiskey distillery sounds fun 😏
31st July 2021

Puffins!
Indeed, I loved seeing the puffins too 🙂 I think also one of my favourite birds now too! Skomer Island sounds a wonderful place to visit. I enjoyed the whisky too ☺
31st July 2021
Glen Moray Distillery

Just a taste
Sounds like the perfect adventure.
31st July 2021
Glen Moray Distillery

A Wee Dram
Aye, I enjoyed those whiskies 😃
31st July 2021
Glen Moray Distillery

Just a taste
Sounds like the perfect adventure.
31st July 2021
Glen Moray Distillery

A Wee Dram
Aye, I enjoyed those whiskies 😃
31st July 2021
Puffin

I love puffins!
The are so darn cute.
31st July 2021
Puffin

Puffins!
Yes indeed, so cute! I love them too 😃
31st July 2021

Puffins, Antarctica and
Puffins are one of our favorite birds so always glad to see one. We will definitely explore Antarctic sites when we get to Dundee. The castle and boat ride sound fantastic. We will use your blogs as a guide when we get back to Scotland. You are getting a good taste of modern, ancient, castles, art, history, boats, trains and whiskey. Lots of variety in this trip. The Biblical Garden looks like a great place for a picnic. That was extremely nice of that woman to hang onto your bag. As you said that would not happen in London.
31st July 2021

Scotland
Indeed, I'm really enjoying this trip! There's such a lot to see, and such a variety of travel experiences 😊
15th August 2021

Never Cease to Amaze
Alex, you never cease to amaze me with how far to are able to explore (much of it on foot) and what amazing sights you see! You certainly are an excellent walker. Sorry to hear you were a bit disappointed with the V&A Museum, but glad you enjoyed the distillery tour ( £28,000 per barrel!!) and were able to see puffins! I have yet to see any personally. Not familiar with 'Desperate Dan' but glad you found this discovery a highlight of your day!!
15th August 2021

Thank you!
Aw, what a lovely comment! Thank you so much for this, Sylvia 🙂 I enjoy travelling by public transport very much, and I do like walking. The distillery and puffins were cool, and I think Desperate Dan, Beano and Dandy are known in the UK, but not so much elsewhere. Thank you for reading my blog 🙂
27th September 2021
The Wards Wildlife Site

Wow!
What a cool photo. I visited Aberdeen many years ago. It was in April I think. I remember that it was pretty cold outside in the night and that the house I stayed in was badly insulated and poorly heated. Damn, it was cold! /Ake
28th September 2021
The Wards Wildlife Site

Thank you!
Thank you Ake 😊 Ah, I imagine you visited Aberdeen in its natural state - cold, dark and wet! I was fortunate to visit during a bit of a heatwave, so I remember it as a bright, glistening city myself.

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