The Highlands draws us back again

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September 29th 2013
Published: October 4th 2013
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We promised ourselves a bit of a lie in this morning when we went to bed last night after a big day out and we managed to achieve that not waking until around 7.30am.Well it was Sunday and we didn’t have a big distance to cover today as we returned to the Highlands and a couple of nights at another Youth Hostel, this time in Braemar.

Yes, we can hear you saying, ‘but we thought you had had enough of youth hostels after your experience at Glencoe’!! Well yes, but on that occasion we had had a long day, were tired and the atmosphere of the place had also not helped. Photos we had seen on the website indicated that the beds looked more comfortable than the ones at Glencoe so we have our fingers crossed.

After another delicious and very filling breakfast of bacon and eggs and also time for a Skype call to sister Kathriona and partner Tim we headed down the road to Dawn’s farm to take back the dossier she lent us on the ‘Benvie Family ‘she had prepared for herself 5 years ago.

Dawn and her husband Iain are dairy and cattle farmers just a short distance away from Aileen’s home. They moved out of the main farm house when their son, wife and children came home to manage the farm and they moved into an older farmhouse which had actually been 3 houses on the property that they fully renovated into a fabulous home with heaps of space.

After coffee and a chat we were back to Aileen’s to pack up the car and say our goodbyes before we headed north up the coast on the A92 towards Stonehaven.

Before we left the coast we dropped down to a traditional fishing village complete with small white painted cottages and parked up on the waterfront for lunch.

Our idea after lunch was to get onto the A93 which was described in the atlas as a scenic road. To get to the road which originated in Aberdeen we needed to make a connecting road which turned out to be a bit more complicated than we thought even with GPS.

The countryside back from the coast rises quite quickly and it isn’t long before we are travelling through narrow valleys with steep hillsides although we still can’t find the elusive A93.

After a while we had worked out that we were running parallel with the A93 on a road that wasn’t marked on the atlas and we could understand better why the GPS wasn’t showing the road number as it usually does.

We finally got onto the road we wanted at Banchory and then had a better idea how much longer it would take for us to reach our destination taking the route we had wanted.

Heading due west on the A93 we drove through Ballater, the closet town to the Queens castle at Balmoral but as it was now getting on a bit in the day we decided to keep going and come back tomorrow to check out the ‘royal’ town.

The car park at Craithie, where you can park to walk for a closer look at Balmoral, was virtually empty and that was essentially because the Queen was currently in residence and therefore the estate is not open to the public until she returns to London at the end of her holiday.PM John Key and his family were here last weekend so we thought she probably wouldn’t want to see anyone else from NZ as guests for the moment so we carried on.

We arrived too early at the Youth Hostel to check in but we were more impressed with this one than the one at Glencoe, at least at first look. So we drove down to the village to take a walk around for some exercise and had a cup of coffee at the largest building in the village, the Fife Arms hotel. It had a cavernous lounge with a cafe within it and as it had an open fire lit we gravitated to it so we could warm up again after our walk in the bracing air. We later found out that Braemar has the lowest annual average temperature in the UK for a weather station where there is a constantly inhabited population. The annual average is 6C !!

Back to the hostel and our first impressions were confirmed and the bedroom was OK for layout and mattresses were surprisingly comfortable. Even the toilets and showers were well presented and close at hand to our room.

We got down to the kitchen to prepare our dinner well before the crowd that the guy on reception had warned us about got back from their walk in the Cairngorms, the mountain range adjacent to the town. It is not so much that the mountains are very high at 1300 metres for the highest peak nearby but it is the exposure to the chilling north east that can make them a challenging place to be out walking in.

Tomorrow we might just have another lie in and give the walking group time to use the showers and have breakfast and leave before we emerge as we don’t have any pressure of time on us with a plan to do a couple of local walks in the morning and a drive to take a closer look at Balmoral and the town of Ballater in the afternoon.


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