Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 12 - Balvenie Distillery Tour and Knockando Woolmill

We wake at 5 am. It sounds like it’s raining outside. I journal, procrastinating whether to traipse down to the Loch of Strathbeg. It’s not really the season for Loch of Strathbeg.
Our room with a view to the east pays off when I head across to the window and find that the cloud over on the horizon is blushed pink with the rising sun.
6 am we steel ourselves and drag ourselves out to the car for a look. I know I’ll regret it if we pass up the opportunity to get even a rough idea of what it’s like. It’s not far from the Tufted Duck Hotel to the Loch. We Go.
There’s not a lot of cars about but nearing the RSPB reserve there’s several people out walking. We misinterpret the welcome sign and miss the turn and go round again. Well, it wouldn’t be like us to find anything the first time, no matter how obvious. The morning is crisp and clear and the ground is moist. Hubby waits in the car while I go for a little exploratory walk. This takes me along a firm path made of a sort of crushed gravelly material that is fine and grey and I’m overlooking what looks like a marshy area of ground that would probably provide good shelter and feed for birds. When the path runs out it turns into two wheel lanes. I trudge on. The fields either side of this rough road have had the fodder harvested and the large round plastic wrapped bales sit here and there.  Beyond this there is a seat overlooking a wide expanse of ground before, over in the far distance, I can see water.
We have an extremely sharp deadline this morning. So now armed with a better idea of the area, though probably woefully incomplete, I turn and head back to the car. It’s been lovely to be out and about in the crisp early morning.
We pack up and head down to breakfast.  We seem to be the only ones up this early. The layout is explained to us for the help yourself breakfast items which includes cereals, prepared exotic fruits, yoghurt and juices but no pastries.  I like a bit of fruit and yoghurt and we both have a bowl of cereal. A decision I soon regret. Time comes when we are ordering from the hot menu. Hubby orders a full Scottish which included both black pudding and haggis and very nice, very small mushies sliced up. It only had one egg but that was plenty accompanied by the pork sausage, baked beans and, drum roll please, a slice of fried bread. That’s unexpected! I’m not letting it get away without begging some. I loved fried bread when I was little and Dad’s mum used to make it for us as a snack to take home in the car when we visited.  Delicious.
Although I had planned to skip it, I end up ordering a bowl of porridge, curious to see how they make it here. That might seem a bit odd I suppose, but both sets of my grandparents have a mix of English and Scottish in their background. Mum never salts her porridge. Dad insists that it’s not proper porridge if it’s not salted. I guess I’m looking for adjudication. I’m thinking Dad’s probably correct. His family has more Scottish in it than Mum’s and his maternal line is pure Scottish and proudly so and they’d be the ones making the porridge. They would know. I’m not out of the woods yet though. The menu says the porridge comes lightly salted and served with cream and honey and it can be made with either milk or water. I have a decision to make so I get talking with our pretty young waitress. I ask her to have them make the porridge how she would have it. So that’s with the milk and no salt, but she does concede it’s supposed to be salted, she just prefers it without.
My porridge arrives and it is big. I wish I hadn’t already had other things. The oats that have been used are chopped up and so the porridge seems a finer texture than we have readily available at home. Interesting. It is a thick creamy consistency and I enjoy it. However I must say, I think it would be good with a little salt.  I resolve to skip the breakfast bar and have porridge again.
We’re now really cutting it finer than I had planned and we are further delayed by friendly chatting with the two young people who are on the early shift today, which includes our waitress from breakfast. Both seem like lovely young people and it’s hard to drag ourselves away. Hubby is very vocal on his regret to be leaving the Tufted Duck, he's been really happy here overnight and says he'd like to come back and stay longer. There's certainly plenty around here to do that we didn't get to.
Right, we’re on the road and we’re not speeding but we’re not doing the tourist mosey either. Hubby means business and we’re making up time on the TomTom estimate. Just as well because we discover that the A920 is closed up around Glass and we’re obliged to take a poorly signposted detour. Oh lord help us. This chews up the time we had made up. We arrive into Dufftown just a few minutes before our scheduled tour time of 10 o’clock. Now all we have to do is find Balvenie Distillery. I know it is right next door to Glenfiddich but it’s not exactly where I had thought looking at a map.  We implement our specialty of round and round the garden and resort once more to Dr Google. Done, we rush along the path down through the demonstration patch of barley mixed with a smattering of red poppies and cornflowers and keep a look out for the white office described in our tour booking confirmation.  Done.
We arrive all apologies and not to worries and join the group who have been enjoying a coffee on comfortable leather sofas. The trouble is there’s no seats for us and we are obliged to stand. Our group is 9 people. Four North Americans in one group (from both Canada and the US), a group of three from Belgium and us two Aussies.  A bit of an explanation about the history of the distillery and William Grant and Sons Distillers Ltd, of which Balvenie is part and then we’re off to begin the tour from the beginning of the whisky making process – malting the barley.  Balvenie still grow their own barley but not in sufficient quantity to meet the demand. These days there are specialist malting businesses that can supply better quality at a cheaper price than distilleries could do themselves so fewer and fewer distilleries are maintaining this aspect of the process as an in-house activity. Balvenie blends their own malted barley with externally sourced barley. We see the grain being stored, then soaked, then germinated, then dried along with an explanation of the changes that take place within the grain. It is a process of converting the starch to sugars, making beer and then distilling the alcohol from that beer and developing the flavour through aging it. 
The drying of the germinated grain is done through a combination of peat smoke and dry heat. Only moist grain will absorb the smoke flavour, so once it gets to a certain point the smoke is stopped and clean smokeless heat created by burning Welsh anthracite is used to finish the drying. Earlier in the tour we tasted the barley at the start as it sits in storage waiting sufficient quantity for processing. We now taste the drying barley and experience the increased sweetness. With a grain or two of barley chewing and sweetening in our mouths we head back down the stairs where we have a look at the peat fuel and fire and the pretty blue flame on the burning anthracite. On our way we pass back by the floor where the barley was drying after its first soaking. A couple of the staff of Balvenie are using a special plough and wooden shovels to turn and move the barley to make way for the next batch to be dumped on the floor from the soaking vat we looked at earlier.
The seed needs to have germination halted at the right point and when dried it is mashed and mixed again with water and left to brew a beer aka a wort. Now we’re off again to see the huge wooden vats where the spring water and mash is sitting, brewing away.  We taste the water at the beginning of the process, and again towards the end. I’m not a beer drinker, actually I’m not really a drinker at all but I steel myself and participate. It’s not bad. Hubby actually thinks the beer at the end of the process is very nice and licks as much of his hand as possible before heading for the sink. There’s nothing dignified about using your hand for a cup!
When it is ready, the wort needs to be cooled and this is done by heat transfer using river water. We pass by the wort cooler and a “shaker” contraption that is used to make sure there’s nothing like little stones in the barley before it goes through the rollers, for obvious reasons: stones would damage the rollers and reduce efficiency. We’re getting to the pointy end of the process now as we enter the distillation area with the big copper vats and spirit safes and we learn about the distillation cycle.
The next step requires us to travel in the Landrover over to the cooperage where a team of coopers work repairing barrels for use in the aging of the whisky. Nice flowers over here as well.
Scotch whisky does not use new barrels it needs barrels that have already be used to age a different variety of alcohol. Luckily, American Bourbon whisky requires new barrels so their cast offs are bought up by the whisky distilleries. The other type of barrels used are cast offs from the Spanish sherry industry. These barrels are enormous. Each barrel is also used more than once. The age and type of barrel used to age the whisky has a significant impact on the colour and flavour of the whisky produced.  We watch as the coopers go about their work. They use reeds imported from the Netherlands to create a seal in the butt end of the barrel and they have a fabulous machine that pushes the metal bands down tight around the barrel. This saves a lot of hard graft for the coopers. We have a look at some staves that illustrate the sorts of damage that would require the cask to be repaired before use, and note the moisture penetration in to the wood and the sign that the barrel is no longer usable for the whisky maturation. Old barrels are used for firewood or sometimes as pot planters.
No photos are allowed in our final area which is a dark and gloomy, earthen floored maturation space. Clearly this is only a sample of what they have on site and there’s barrels here dating from as long ago as 1967.  David uses the whisky dog to take a sample from one that is aged 41 years and we head to a space where three casks of whisky are set up for us to try. The difference between the whisky in the various barrels is the number of times the barrel has been used and the age of maturation and also the type of barrel.  Now we can, if we want to, take one of the little bottles and use the whisky dog to fill the little bottle with whisky from one of these casks.  We each do one and others do too and we compare the colour of the whisky one to the other. Hubby likes the first one and I like the second. 
We head back to the office building and into a little room for the tasting part of the program.  Me and another fellow take most of our samples in a little bottle of our own special 12 yr blend because we’re both planning on driving immediately after the tour. Any blend is only as old as the youngest whisky included in it. Hubby’s enjoying this bit and signs up to qualify for a taste of the 41 year old single malt. We have water available and are provided with pipettes we can use to control the quantity of water in the liquor. It is emphasised all along the way that there are no right or wrong ways to enjoy whisky. Whatever flavours you think you identify is correct, it’s all subjective. You can like whatever you want and that’s the main thing. Some like older maturation, some like younger. Hubby prefers the younger vintage. Isn’t that convenient! As we’re tasting we also hear about the cold filtering process that is used. There’s nothing wrong with pure whisky going a bit cloudy but some people don’t like it so the whisky is chilled and filtered to remove the elements that go cloudy. They also standardise the alcohol content by adding spring water so that the product bottled is uniform.
In due course our tasting session comes to its conclusion. I preferred the Caribbean. We head across to the shop where we pay for our tour and get our little bottles we filled ourselves packed up ready for travel, perhaps buy some whisky or whatever and our time at Balvenie comes to an end. It’s been a really fascinating tour. It’s a brilliant way to publicise your brand. We will certainly have a soft spot for Balvenie and for Glenfiddich going forward.  We’re both happy to have spent the morning on this tour.
Back again past the barley and wildflowers, we’re strolling and chatting, in no particular rush. It’s no time before we’re wandering into Glenfiddich Distillery to find the Malt Barn Restaurant. Glenfiddich is schmick. Beautiful buildings and gardens, lots of people about. This is not unexpected of course, it’s like wine country isn’t it. Wine cellar doors are usually schmick in Australia so we’re not surprised, but still impressed.  We are shown to our table and order our meals. Then I duck out to the ladies (toilets) and this requires me to go through a lovely stained glass door. In the corridor that leads to the tour area of Glenfiddich there is the most delicious smell. In the bathrooms they have some really nice smelling handwash. I wish I’d written down what it was but it made the room smell brilliant. It wasn’t cloying and floral, more whisky-like I suppose I’d describe it. Anyhow it reminded me of the beautiful lemon verbena handwash they were using when we visited Burghley in 2012, very distinctive and memorable. But I digress.
Lunch. Hubby: Haggis Neeps and Tatties with a whisky sauce. Me: Smoked Salmon fishcakes with salad and home-made tartare sauce.  For dessert we can’t resist the whisky scented vanilla panna cotta with berries and shortbread. We each enjoy our own meals and the panna cotta – which is enormous! Lunching at the Malt Room restaurant has been a very nice way to finish our visit.
It’s now almost two hours since Hubby had is last drink and we spend a little time calculating the number of standard drinks we think he had at the tasting, considering the high alcohol content of the samples, and the quantity. My sample bottle was useful in guessing the total volume. We calculate he should be OK by now, so he’s behind the wheel. We figure he’s safer than me because he’s had considerably more sleep. And we’re off.
We’re heading for Knockando Wool Mill. We only do a little bit of mucking about before we decide we’ll just use Dr Google for directions. Our route takes us through some beautiful wooded country. Green and lush. We drop down into a little valley by a small heavily tannin stained watercourse which is known locally as a burn, as it is in New Zealand. Parking is no problem and we stroll in to see the buildings, but not before I take a short detour to look at the burn.
The restoration is all done well and our first highlight is the water wheel which is turning steadily, driven by a surprisingly small amount of water. It well and truly captured Hubby’s attention.
First stop is the shop. They have a little room where a documentary about the wool mill is playing. It’s interesting but we don’t want to spend the time on it today, so Hubby decides we’ll buy the copy of it on USB.  We very very much admire the picnic rugs with wax backs but they’re really heavy so we skip those because they are just too heavy to fit in our luggage. They have some lovely rugs and blankets and we choose one that goes with our décor at home. We were really impressed that when asked how much it weighs they just had to make a quick call and the answer was immediate – 1.265 kgs.
We head out to explore the buildings and the old machinery which is not in use today. We find a couple of people in one of the other buildings and are just peering in from a little roped area when they call over to us to come on in. We wander over and they explain that the man is just setting up the new (26 years old) machine for the next job. They see our blanket and tell us it was woven on this machine that can do 8 blankets an hour. The lady uses the traditional machinery and she can produce 2 blankets an hour on that. I ask if they’re getting good demand for their products, I assume they must do to be investing in the faster machinery and yes, they are getting the orders rolling in. I’m pleased that these include orders for the fabrics required for the ceremonial dress of a number of military units.
It's a great pleasure to see the regeneration of this site and this industry in the local area. It's brilliant. There's signs up again that it was opened by Prince Charles. Nothing that suggests the Regeneration Trust had anything to do with the work that was done, but there's no question, this would be right up his alley.
We leave the site at just about closing time and head for Carrbridge and our accommodation for the next couple of nights. Just after we cross the River Spey a pheasant risks its life stepping out on the road.  We pass by a sign saying we’re entering Cairngorms National Park. The scenery is fabulous. Man has tamed the valleys and slopes, but the heather owns the heights and is flowering beautifully.
We don’t have any problem finding where we need to be and a friendly English man attends to our check in and shows us to our room and gives us the run down on breakfast etc. He asks us about our dinner plans and gives us useful advice about times and places and the impact of Thunder in the Glens.  On his advice we make a booking for Anderson’s tomorrow night. They are already quite heavily booked so we have a choice of quite early or rather late. We make it 6pm despite that meaning we might need to curtail our tour tomorrow.  For tonight we’ll head over for an early dinner at the Cairn Hotel, which is well regarded and popular.We drive. It’s only across the road and up a bit and not a long way to walk, but Hubby is footsore and every little bit helps. No great rush on in here as yet, though there’s plenty of patrons in the bar where we take a table to enjoy the atmosphere.  Hubby orders a Tennent’s Lager which is on tap and comments that he’s not surprised it’s popular. It’s cold too, which is always a good start.
Our meals: Me, I’m out on my own ordering langoustines for a starter. I’m a bit surprised when they arrive in their shell for me to peel. Oh. OK. I’ve never shelled a langoustine before, they’re quite expensive in Aus and tend to be prepared for you in those places that have them. They’re like a spikey and dangerous prawn for not so much reward. By the way, most prawns in Australia are bigger than these langoustines and have a stronger flavour. Consequently these seem a little insipid.
My main is the macaroni cheese with smoked haddock in it. Yes. Symptoms of smoked haddock obsession there. I’ve had it at both lunch and dinner today.  My meal is better once we beg some salt from the table next door. I’m a bit over the macaroni cheese though I think. It’s a bit runny. I like it a bit stodgier really.
Hubby sticks with just a main of Steak and Ale Pie. Which I note takes an inexcusable short cut. It’s basically steak and ale stew with a separately cooked blob of flakey pastry plonked on top. Hmmfff says I. A pie should have the pastry cooked on the meat to get the contact and delicious soaking of flavour into the pastry.. I’m glad I didn’t order that but Hubby’s enjoying it.
Desserts we decide to share a Cranachan Sundae. OOOHHH it is GOOOOD!  Oh boy we’re glad we ordered that! A bit more oats would have made it even better.
We’re well and truly ready to chill out and relax now so we’re off to our room for the nightly ritual of charging phones and batteries, catching up on mail and working on the journal, then we collapse. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 11 - Forvie NNR, Pitmedden Garden, Cruden Bay and Fraserburgh Museums

Man we had a good day today! We tried to get away pretty early but by the time we’d got our gear in the car and cleaned up and dropped the keys around to the AirBnB host it’s about 9 o’clock. Well, we’ve passed our first danger. The vacuum cleaner at the flat. It’s so loud we wonder if it has something wrong. It’s louder than the mills working at full volume that we listened to at Stanley Mills yesterday. It's deafening. Literally.
First up we’re heading to Forvie National Nature Reserve. We stop at the local BP petrol station on our way past to pick up a map and I take the opportunity to sample some treats we don’t get at home. Notably this includes some Tyrell’s chips, Bassett’s Jelly Babies and Cadbury Daim chocolate. Well actually two blocks of the latter, I can take one home to show the kids. The plan is to just sus Forvie out a bit and maybe take a short walk in doing so. Hubby insists he’ll come along. Despite the place not looking much from the carpark, we set out. Nothing ever runs smoothly! Before we’ve gone very far the camera battery dies and on this occasion I opted to leave my handbag in the car and just bring essentials. Apparently not all essentials. Try again.
Forvie NNR seems popular with people walking dogs and we smile when someone with two black Labradors meets someone else also with two black Labradors. The Labradors smile too, in their doggy way.  There’s a couple of loop paths that can be taken to different habitats around the reserve, but we’re just planning to do part of the heath walk, have a look at the little loch and head back. We have a lot on today’s agenda. 
The first ooh ahh moment comes when I look at the grasses and the ground over which we are passing. Gee, there’s moss growing in between the tufts of grass out in full sunlight. You certainly don't see that at home. After a while when we get out of sight of the car park we come to areas where there is a lot of flowering heather. 
Despite the wind the honey scent rising off the heather is amazing and delicious.  As we walk along we come upon scene after beautiful scene as though nature has its easel out today and is painting new pictures for us to enjoy. There’s more than just the heather flowering there’s other heath plants also that are displaying their dainty little blossoms beside the path though many of them are just in single plants here and there. Harebells are among them but others are existing in the moment label free.
We crest a dune and finally the ocean comes into view. It’s wild with white horses and this has been consistently the case since we arrived in Scotland. I wonder, is it always like this? Is it ever as calm as glass like the Pacific or the Tasman can be off Australia early in the morning? We come to the corner that the maps suggest is where we will need to finish and head back. It’s been a fabulous walk and we have both really enjoyed it. Hubby of course finds another little piece of technology to admire in the sweet little wind turbine near the Forvie Visitor's centre. He's pretty impressed by how much power it generates. 
Now we need to backtrack a little and head for Pitmedden Garden. This gives us another opportunity to admire the beds of rugosa roses and lobelia among other beautiful bedding plants at Newburgh and the groups of waders out on the flats of the estuary by the road. What could be more enjoyable than being out on the open road listening or singing along to your favourite tunes? In this case Rod Stewart fits the bill.  ..The first cut is the deepest, baby I know, the first cut is the deepest...
We’re finding that the TomTom maps really need to be updated. They really aren’t all that reliable in Scotland for finding our way to the various tourist attractions. Hubby’s google maps on his phone is proving more useful. However we’re still in the process of arriving at that conclusion as Billy directs us to the wrong place to enter the gardens.  Try again. 
We park and wander into the conservatory which is filled with the heady scent of some oriental lillies in full, perfect bloom. 
A turn left to the gift shop then flash our membership cards and get provided with an enthusiastic greeting and a map. This map also seems to be a little out of date and in the end, not having been able to find the start of the indicated walking path, we just ad lib starting with the museum of farming life, which is small but interesting and includes a farmhouse.  Then it’s a simple matter of wandering over to look at the formal garden and its 5 miles of hedging. I do indeed appreciate the work that keeping the hedges in such a neat state around the garden beds must involve. A sign says it takes 3 months out of the year just maintaining the hedges.  The formal style is a great one for people who can’t walk too far because they are designed to be viewed from above rather than walked among. We’re happy to take this approach! The breadth of the garden beds is impossible to capture in one photo and difficult to do justice too even if choosing one section. I think perhaps my favourite part of the garden is the herbaceous border and that I can get.
Decision time as lunch approaches, do we eat here or wait and eat in Cruden Bay? We have a dinner booked so an early lunch might be sensible. We’ll eat here at Pitmedden.  Good decision. Some people have just left which leaves us the nice window seat with pretty bright pink geraniums in the window box. One thing I’m noticing is that there are a number of plants, or styles of plant, that look lovely here in Scotland but not so nice in Australia. I’m puzzled as to why this is. Perhaps it’s the softer light here and the moister air. The pink geranium flowers have a vibrancy and sheen that they just don’t manage to sustain in Australia’s harsher climate. It’s similar with scents. I’ve noticed some flowering privet here and there in our travels and the fragrance of the blossoms in Scotland is quite pleasant. Different context different effect. Privet is a noxious weed in Australia and the smell of the flowers is cloying and, I find, not nice in the drier, hotter air.
The menu at Pitmedden is simple but sufficient. Hubby chooses the sandwiches and soup combo and I just go with the sandwiches.  Today’s soup is carrot and coriander and Hubby complements that with Scottish Honey Roast Ham and Lockerbie Cheddar on white bread, washed down by a fair trade hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows on the top.  I’m just sticking with the sandwiches and have selected Lockerbie Cheddar and Arran Chutney on brown. My drink is freshly pressed apple juice. Everything is satisfying. The cheddar is a dark orange and the chutney is sweet and mildly spiced. We’re tempted by the Caramel Apple crumble and homemade custard, but time is of the essence today and dessert is a luxury we can’t afford and don’t need. Hubby settles the bill and we make tracks.
We are back on the road and making for Cruden Bay for a quick squiz. We’ve had our fill of ruins with Dunnotar Castle yesterday, so Slains Castle has been scratched.  We meander through the village and find our way down to the ocean front where we park and hop out of the car wondering when the heavens are going to open up. The sea looks fairly wild and the waves are crashing to the shore. The wind is blowing strongly, but far from gale force.  
What’s happened? Suddenly the throng of gulls that were clustered down on the rocks take flight and head straight for us. I snap blindly hoping for the best. It must get wild here. The boats in the harbour are chained in a sequence to keep them apart, each end of the chain secured at either end of the stone enclosure.
We don’t linger, though we do pause on our way out, as nearby washing flaps on the line of a pretty little stone cottage by the water, to try to photograph some of the birds on the dark, weed encrusted rocks.
It’s now just after 2pm and that doesn’t leave us much time to see the Lighthouse Museum or the Heritage Centre in Fraserburgh. We may need to choose one and skip the other. Hubby chooses the lighthouse. We do enjoy a lighthouse tour.  The weather is closing in as we drive into the dark brooding clouds hanging sullenly over the east coast. The lighthouse museum hasn’t readily appeared in the TomTom so we’re feeling our way until we can pick up on local signage. We take the coastal route figuring that is sure to find the lighthouse and this is a lucky choice because we pass by the harbour and lots of impressive fishing vessels that are wonderful to have a look at. No problem with parking outside the museums and in a mind to hurry due to rain and time. We open the car doors and I’m pretty much stopped in my tracks. Mmm. Oooh smell that!  The air is full of the delicious smell of smoking fish. Come on! Says Hubby, and I snap myself out of it. When we were in England in 2012 I developed an apple obsession. I think the food obsession this time is smoked haddock and its close relative Cullen Skink.
There’s a clue to the weather in these parts, in the wide overhang outside the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. We wander in and the guys behind the desk point out that we don’t have much time to see both museums. Yeah, we figure we better just see one. They recommend however that we book in to the 4pm lighthouse tour and meanwhile head over to the heritage museum and get a discount on entry for doing both. Turns out our Historic Scotland membership gets us in to the Lighthouse so that saves time now and we can just pay for the heritage centre.
On entering the Heritage centre we need to walk down a long ramp where the walls have information posters. “WOW!! Look at that!!” I cry. “Check out the photo of the harbour jam packed with hundreds of herring drifters”. Hubby’s loitering looking at some signs behind me, but intent on hurrying past. He doesn’t seem anywhere near so excited. But then he’s not the one here who read Neil Gunn’s masterpiece The Silver Darlings when preparing for this trip. Maybe that’s another clue as to why I’m obsessed with the smoked fish. I really loved that book.
Despite only having about 45 minutes or so, I get the audio guide. I can dip into that. Hubby decides to just explore without one. We go our separate ways as we each find exhibits that fit our particular interests. There’s a wide range of subjects to choose from. Guess which one captures my attention?  Not really that challenging a quiz given my ravings above, that’s right, I’m focussing intently on listening post 1. It’s about the harbour and the herring fishery. I’m just working my way through sequentially for a while from there.  The statistics are amazing. Fraserburgh had 1000 coopers working to supply the 300,000 casks required for the herring each year! I get to the Marconi hut and listen with interest to the information about World Marconi Day and the annual events that take place here in the government licensed radio station which has been built based on photographs of the hut where Marconi and his staff conducted experiments in Fraserburgh all those years ago.
I particularly enjoyed an exhibit about the historic village of Broadsea and the clay model that was made by local schoolchildren over several years as they studied the history and community of that village as part of an integrated curriculum unit involving pretty much all of the key learning areas. The model is brilliant and the history is quite sad, the community lost 2/3rds of its male population in a storm in 1740.
Hubby made his way further into the depths of the museum to a display where you could operate model trains. Then he checked out the Marconi hut and set off the air raid siren in the World War II section. His favourite exhibit was about fish exports to Australia and the innovations they came up with to preserve the fish over the long journey. They put the fish in glass jars with olive oil and sealed the jars with pitch.
We’re due for the lighthouse tour soon, so I just duck across to the WW1 and Bill Gibb exhibits and photograph some of the information panels to read later then we have to make our way out. The Heritage Centre is a brilliant museum. Really well done. It’s a shame we don’t have more time, but something is better than nothing.
We duck back across the car park to the Lighthouse Museum, get issued with tickets and then browse in the gift shop for the couple of minutes we have before the tour starts. Our guide is Callum and he’s very knowledgeable about the workings and history of the museum as well as being a very personable young man.
First stop is the fog horn which has been decommissioned. I’m surprised at the amount of infrastructure it required in support to keep it operating in poor weather. Then we pause to hear all about the current automated beacon before we start to talk directly about the lighthouse itself which is built within and from the 16th century Fraser castle when it was no longer in active use.
Once again Sir Walter Scott was instrumental in the preservation of the castle structure (was there anything going on in Scotland in his lifetime that he wasn't in the thick of? There’s lot more interesting bits of information that Callum has to tell us. 

I won’t tell all the content of the tour. Better that people discover the lighthouse for themselves nice and fresh without having the eyes picked out of it here beforehand. I will simply assure you that it’s a really interesting tour and quite a unique lighthouse with great views over the coast and Fraserburgh. Well worth visiting.
I’m the last out of the lighthouse as I want the chance to get a clear view of the lovely spiral of the staircase.
Now. Next item is another tick on our must see list. We are passing by a large Tesco’s! I want to have a look in Tesco and I doubt we’ll ever get a chance better than this. In we go. We stock up on souvenir things that we don't get at home. I also find some yoghurt to try, it’s YEO yoghurt, which tipped me off as to its origin, which is North Somerset, where some other of my dead rellies reside. Hubby found himself some pork pies, which should keep OK if kept cool. We line up at the checkout, no worries, and I am reassured as to the survival of the Scottish accent: I could barely understand a word the young woman on the checkout said to me! Two thumbs up
Heavily laden we make our way to the car. We’ve had a brilliant day but it is late and we need to check in at the Tufted Duck Hotel in St Combs. We need to drive there via Rathen for another family connection.

At the Tufted Duck our room is a suite. I don’t remember booking a suite. Perhaps they have upgraded us. The bed is comfy we discover that the wifi is fast and the room has horizon views through big picture windows. Beautiful. Hubby especially really likes this accommodation and wishes we were staying in this area longer.  So do I. We both talk of coming back some time.
So just dinner, which is in the hotel restaurant and then we can relax. First of all we are given a couple of tiny pastry cases with Arran chutney in them. Very nice.  Then for our starter course I’ve opted for the Sauteed Amity Langoustines: Locally landed langoustines, sautéed in fresh garlic and coriander on a bed of thai style noodles. Hubby has selected the Mrs Rennie’s Poached Egg: Free range local hen’s egg, poached and wrapped in Black Haggis coated in a golden crumb. Served with whole grain mustard mayonnaise. Competition is suspended.  We each share the Taste of Cullen skink: a Demi-Tasse cup of Cullen skink with homemade bread. It’s good! Almost as good as at Glamis Castle, which means it was very good indeed, but I think Glamis Castle still holds the crown by a narrow margin.
For mains: I win with the 8oz fillet steak which comes with long stem broccoli, grilled tomato, flat cap mushroom (which I quickly dispose of by shunting it to Hubby before its presence is adequately noted by my bodily systems and they revolt). We skip dessert. Oh my! Can you believe it! Twice in one day!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 10 - Aitkens Bakery, Aberdeen, Coull Kirkyard and Dunnottar Castle

Hubby went back to bed after waking too early and I’m obliged to wait for him to wake up. It’s after 9 am before we are on our way to Glenbervie Road in Torry and our first experience with their famous rowies. Our route takes us past the docks where some seriously impressive specialist ships, I’m guessing used in the oil/gas industry are moored. A stop at the lights gives us a chuckle as we see evidence of the local sense of humour (look closely). More streets of attractive grey stoned terraces and soon Billy’s asking for thanks, again. Bloody performers always wanting applause.
We need to look closely to find Aitkens because it’s currently got no name on it anywhere. No trouble parking I make a spectacle of myself with the camera and we wander in and ask for two rowies.  Rowies are also a species of kiwi and it certainly feels strange using the term for ordering our breakfast. I wonder if kiwis taste good. Anyway, the dour lady behind the counter packages up two from a large basket on the shelf behind and we pay the small sum requested and wander outside.  I’m at a loss as to why they are also called butteries, they seem to be made with large quantities of lard and salt, the texture somewhat reminiscent of a croissant. Interesting. With their strong salty tang, you certainly wouldn’t be wanting to add vegemite that’s for sure. They’d be good with a full Scottish breakfast though.  I've enjoyed one but any more would be excessive in one sitting we think.  We head back in to buy a couple more for Ron (translation: later on) and Hubby’s keen to try something else. The lady looks at me like she’s wondering what the hell she’s struck here when I ask what are those things in the basket on the higher shelf.  “ Pancakes….” We’ll have one of those too.  Hubby pays up and we leave… somewhat sheepishly I have to say.  The pancake was good. Nothing unusual about it. Well we had to ask they weren’t stacked like pancakes and some looked like they had dried fruit or something in them.
What shall we do next? As we’re already in the car we decide to go back to Harriet St Carpark and see if we can have a look around St Nicholas Church. We’re old hands now and pretty soon we’re meandering about the in churchyard checking out the ornamental stonework. The church itself is locked until daily prayers at 1:05 pm. We are particularly impressed by the work of the craftsman who made a celtic cross. The memorial commemorates events over a very long period, so our guess is that the work dates from early 20th century. It’s stunning.
That done, Hubby waits while I wander down towards Marischal College. It’s on a scale that’s hard to capture but I do my best and enjoy examining the statue of Robert the Bruce on his warhorse outside. 
The other thing I’ve read about the Aberdeen stone is that it is very hard and durable and consequently the buildings made from it age extremely well. Damn straight! Aberdeen looks pretty schmick overall and the lovely consistency of construction material is a big part of that.  They have done a good job painting the poles outside the library in a Scottish blue with flowers climbing. Touches like that or the flowers look brilliant against the consistent canvas of the stone buildings.
Before I head back to rejoin my patient spouse, I venture into the courtyard of the college and puzzle about the angle to go for. Hmm. How about symmetrical.
I’m intrigued by the references everywhere to Bon Accord, I find that it is incorporated to the heraldry on the statue and a little research reveals that it was apparently used as a password during the Scottish Wars of Independence when Robert the Bruce and his men laid siege to Aberdeen Castle. The City’s official toast is “Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again – Bon Accord”. I can second that. I’ll be happy to return to Aberdeen one day. That being the case and today’s weather being a tad damp and cold, we decide to prioritise the things around Aberdeen that we wouldn’t be able to do if we venture back here without a car sometime in the future. Let’s go for a drive and check out the Lyne of Skene and head on to Coull Kirkyard J
We meet up and head back to the car via the shopping centre. Joy of joys there’s a Pret just upstairs. That’s lunch sorted and we can take it with us. We supplement the sandwiches with some of the slightly flavoured water Pret sells as a fruit drink. First we have to do some money maintenance at home on the internet and then we’re off.
We set off via Auchmill Road, happy enough to just pass through the general area where some of the dead rellies lived for a while. We’re glad we’ve mastered the Bluetooth so we can have music along the way when we choose.  Our first impromptu stop is at a Forestry Commission reserve called Tyrebagger. This is an old mixed woodland area where there are a couple of walking tracks.  Hubby’s resting his foot today. All the walking seems to be catching up with him, but he’s happy enough for me to take a little wander and get some photographs. The trees are fascinating. They are exotic things like larch, and spruce and Scots Pine. All trees we don’t get at home.  There’s a real nip in the air and it’s constantly threatening rain in that way that feels like tiny tender pin pricks as minute drops of water touch your face.  It’s exhilarating.  Perhaps we’ll explore somewhere like this on our guided nature day up in the Cairngorms. It's only a few days away now.  Finding myself drawn further into the woods to see what’s around the next little corner or over that next rise, with great reluctance I drag myself away and turn back.  I give the inevitable report to Hubby and tell him my concerns regarding a man who is lying in his car, seat reclined way back with the engine running.  I hope he’s not dead in there, with some sort of carbon monoxide tube pumping toxic fumes into the car. The ground is dry under the car and it looks like he’s been there some time. As I say this Hubby laughs.
We’re passing the car and the bloke has just moved his arm in the air. Phew! Haha.
We pass through the Kirkton of Skene without record. I hope I’m remembering correctly that rellies were at Lyne of Skene! We take the turn when it comes up and spend a little while checking out the few buildings. There’s a couple of places called Old Schoolhouse 1 and Old Schoolhouse 2. Not a huge leap to guess that this is a conversion and by the look of the building it’s pretty old. So I suppose that the kids must have spent some time in there.  There’s not much in the area even now. Perhaps the village has shrunk. Perhaps the habitations people were living in back in the day weren’t that solid.
For days as we've been driving around everywhere we go there's these beautiful purple flowers growing in drifts by the side of the road or at times even across embankments but I've never really had a good go at photographing them. Well now's my chance. On a quiet road with space to pull over safely there's a thick clump of them that I am hoping will photograph well. Hubby parks and I hop out and do my best. 
We’re just enjoying the drive when we come across a sign for Queen’s View, Hubby is intent on following the plan though and despite my exclamations that we need to see that view we head on to the Coull Kirkyard.
It’s a delightful little stonewalled drive into the parking area for the church. The weather is clearer here than down near the coast where we can still see dark brooding clouds. We pull up in the carpark and have our picnic lunch of delicious Pret sandwiches and the coloured water they sell as juice drinks, then it’s time to explore the kirkyard.
I’ve found records that suggest that my 5th Great Grandfather may have died in Coull in 1835. He had property so I was wondering whether there might be a gravestone here to do with him. It doesn’t really matter if our William Donald died around here or was buried in this kirkyard though . I’m glad we came out here in any case. This place is utterly charming. Time to go I get hubby to follow me slowly down the church lane while I go ahead and photograph some little things I noticed on the way in. 

Our next stop is that Queenly lookout the signs promised and we find it’s not far to go. We pull up in the small lay by and duck across the road where there is a very small alcove that is partly consumed by a post and a puddle. The view is certainly worthy of royal patronage and takes in the Howe of Cromar, with its fertile valley and the peaks of Craig Dhu and Balnagowan Hill in the distance. There’s a sense of space and fertile promise in life that the photographs entirely miss. 
The next sightseeing item for the day is Dunnottar Castle and to get there we are supposed to turn our entire car around when possible, but the scenery where we are is so lovely we can hardly bear to change what we’re doing. After a while though it seems like we had better pull back and we correct our course and head for the coast. As we have travelled today, patches of flowering heather adorn the hillsides and I belatedly realise that the beautiful marbling visible from so far away is in fact the heather in bloom. Amazing
It’s only a short drive down to Dunnottar Castle and there’s ample parking. There’s a house that is in a position where it’s natural to assume it would be a visitor centre or ticket office but signs are posted telling us we buy our tickets at the Castle. To get to the castle it’s quite a distance and it involves a lot of stairs. We make a start, Hubby seems to be doing OK but if a rest is called for there are seats along the way.
Near to our destination I am distracted by a small moth on a post and I fuss about trying to get a clear picture until finally Hubby sings out that he’ll just get a ticket for himself. Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I race up the cobbled pathway and up the final flight of stairs. Or so I thought. There’s a series of cobbled stone tunnels and then another narrow entrance way. I imagine the slaughter that would take place if any invader were foolish enough to emerge in single or double file or whatever out into the open from the security of the tunnel. It wouldn’t be pretty.
The buildings on the site are largely ruined. Naturally there are views up and down the coast but the most awesome view draws our eye across to the war memorial on a distant hill.  It’s in a spectacular location. The British certainly know how to place a feature in a landscape for maximum effect!
Obviously among the derelict buildings are all those that any community would have required in the days when the castle was in active use. We particularly enjoyed the dining room which was restored to celebrate a milestone anniversary not so long ago. It’s amazing what an ornate ceiling will do to make a space look regal! I’m sure seeing it completed must have made the owners of this place wonder as we visitors do whether it might be possible to gradually restore other parts of the castle complex. 
There were also less cheerful elements in our exploration. Down a dark corridor we come to a dark and brooding space where covenanters were imprisoned having been relocated from Edinburgh to make room for other offenders.  Their time at Dunnottar Castle just one slice of the ongoing abuse of what we would now think of as their human rights. Presbyterians refused to acknowledge the king as head of the church, supported a rebellion in their defiance and rapidly came off second best in the argument.  One way or another over half of the covenanters held at the castle perished before the king was done with them. The survivors working, presumably, as prisoners in the West Indies.
I spend a little time in the 17th Century garden where a birdfeeder has some customers who I guess are probably hedge sparrows. It really doesn’t take long to explore what’s here and we start to make our way out. Hubby moves steadily homeward as I just take a quick detour up some stairs to check out the information panel about the war memorial and on to another area where I find another restored room via somebody or other’s lodgings. This one is not so ornate and contains some information panels, some of which duplicate those elsewhere on site, and a scale model of the castle showing the layout of all the buildings. As I’m nearing the top of the stairs I see a sign saying lion’s den. It’s amazing to find that the sign is referring literally to what is being pointed out. They actually kept a lion here for a while. Poor creature. You have to wonder about a time when people must have so completely lacked imagination that they could live apparently so completely without empathy for other living creatures whether human or animal.
We take our time heading up the hill and I catch up with Hubby at a seat provided along the way. We relax for a few more minutes taking in the scene.  Back at the top there’s still a fairly long path bordered by vegetation which includes a couple of thriving white rugosa roses.  We’ve seen some lovely cerise pink rugosa roses around so the white really grabs our attention as something a bit different.
We’re pretty tired and footsore by now, just one more stop as we detour to Chapel St for a better look. Chapel street is much shorter now than it was when it was home to a great stack of Begg and Donald rellies. Following the death of prosperous shipping agent William Donald in the mid 19th Century, his widow, sons and daughters lived at 10 Chapel Street which presumably gave his son John, a druggist, the opportunity for some “sport” with young Catherine Leslie who lived down the other end of the street. Catherine and her mother Janet Begg lived at 109 Chapel for decades with Catherine’s two sons surrounded by Janet's siblings, Dickies, Keiths and Beggs who had all found their way to the inner city. The younger of Catherine Leslie’s two sons, George Leslie Donald, a wool mill worker, ultimately married Mary Dey, daughter of a mason from a family of quarriers and stone workers from up around the Lyne of Skene. They emigrated to far north Queensland in 1883 soon after they were married, during the latter part of the gold rush, taking their two small kids Kate and George Jnr with them (yep, that's right they didn't marry until they had two kids and George Snr had turned 21). Unfortunately neither George Donald the elder, or Mary Dey had long lives. George died of pneumonia aged 34 when he was working on the construction of the original rail bridge over the Burdekin River leaving Mary with children ranging from 15 to 2 years old. Mary remarried and died of a septic miscarriage in 1898 aged only 39. The story goes that she had been living in the small community of Queenton some distance from Charters Towers and she travelled by buggy into Charters Towers for the birth at the hospital there. Unfortunately the baby was still born and she started the journey home only to find that she was carrying twins, the second of which was making its entrance far away from any skilled assistance. Mary and the second baby both died as well. Ultimately I guess people emigrate to give themselves and their kids a better life so the risk they took leaving their home and family in Aberdeen paid off in some measure in that their kids did OK in the end though it must have been tough for newly married Aunt Kate and her husband to take in her young siblings when they were orphaned.
George and Mary Donald’s son, also George, was born in Upper Denburn Street where Mary was living with her parents. He was an infant when he emigrated with his parents and went on to be my Mum’s grandad Donald.
Well, it’s time for our evening meal and we’re inclined to a simple, early night. A little online checking and we decide to go for Efes Kebabs right here in Chapel Street and eat at home. Hubby orders an Efes King Kebab which has beef, chicken and doner meat and I order a small chicken kebab and chips which we then take home to eat and relax. The kebabs were huge. If that chicken kebab is small I cannot imagine how enormous the large size version is. The chips were awful though, which was something of a consolation seeing as neither of us could finish our kebabs.  Some journaling and then goodnight. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 9 - Historic Stanley Mills, Glamis Castle and the Tippling House, Aberdeen

There’s no point doing stuff we don’t remember in future so some sightseeing time this morning is sacrificed on the altar of catching up the journal, but I hadn’t really intended that to drag on so long. We are further delayed by Helen’s mention that she and Bob had been around trying to photograph the butterflies around the buddleia. Really? I get my camera.
It’s 11 am by the time we hit the road and then we compound our issues by agreeing to head to the wrong Stanley. Looking at the TomTom display I notice Edinburgh off in the distance. $#@%! We change course.  I spend quite a bit of time fiddling with the Bluetooth set up and cry victory as our Scotland playlist comes to life.
We have no further trouble finding our way to Historic Stanley Mills and there’s plenty of room in the car park. The weather is cool and overcast as we walk across a little bridge into the industrial site. I’m surprised at the scale of it. It’s enormous. The entrance to the Historic Scotland displays is not immediately obvious. The building closest to where we’ve come in is obviously private dwellings. There’s some information boards here and there so that makes a good start and we soon learn that it’s the Bell Mill, the oldest part of the complex, that is where we need to go.
Historic Scotland must have made quite a considerable investment in the new displays and interactive information stations. It’s a very hands on place with demonstrations of the technology, games and first person accounts of life working at the mill for us to control.  On the ground level we learn about Arkwright and his genius at the efficient arrangement of industrial mills and the reasons he set up in Stanley. The workforce was assembled from people who were evicted from their homes during the clearances. There’s a working model of how the various machines were laid out in the bell mill which you can make work. We spend a bit of time playing a game where you have to respond to world events by buying more or less cotton and hiring more or less workers. A bit of a false start as I thought they meant the price you pay for the various resources rather than how much of the resource to buy but I do alright in the end and my mill is usually in the black. Other stations let you have a go at the sort of tasks that workers, including small children, had to do for days at a time. The displays take us through the 200 years of investment and innovation in technology and industrial rights of workers, or lack thereof. After surviving so long, reading of the demise of the mill is very sad. 
I have a confession to make and I guess now’s the time to make it. I’m a massive admirer of Prince Charles and the many worthy projects he gets involved with or leads. The man is a visionary and harnesses his position and influence, and in many cases, puts his own money where his mouth is, despite so much ridicule and nay-saying by the media. I remember when everyone was laughing at him for converting his estates to organic operations and insisting it was uncommercial pie in the sky stuff in the modern day. Time has proven him right though hasn’t it. I didn’t know before we came here, but Prince Charles, Duke of Rothsay was also instrumental in saving this important industrial site and the redevelopment of it, with a mix of commercial and heritage uses. An article from a newspaper from 2012 stating that the Historic Stanley Mills project was the first by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust which in 15 years was reported as having undertaken projects that attracted “£100m worth of investment, restored more than 1 million square feet of historic floorspace and directly created more than 1000 jobs.” Digging a bit more later I find that the vision of the trust is “that redundant historic sites, at risk of demolition or decay, are rescued, reused and regenerated for the benefit of the surrounding community.
We venture downstairs for a look at the source of power: a diversion of water from the River Tay which was harnessed by evolving technologies to drive the massive amount of machinery required to get to the finished products. The displays in this area are brilliant. One of them you have to pull levers, sometimes in sequence, to make the machinery operate. It’s simplified of course but it is a great hands on way to learn. Our favourite display was one with water and sluice gates that you open to direct the flow to demonstrate the different sorts of technology used over the years. It’s so much fun. Kids would seriously LOVE this place. It must be crawling with school groups when it’s not school holidays, surely. Then we go up to the 1st floor where examples of carding machines are displayed along with some video of an ex mill worker explaining how the machines were used and maintained. 
Finally we go right to the top into a beautiful light filled space, where once women and children worked very hard for long hours in unsafe conditions. We head out, and this time take a walk along a lovely path next to the lade (canal) behind others of the repurposed industrial buildings on our way back to the car.
Our exploration at Stanley Mills has taken us just under 2 hours and it’s now about 2.30. Other than the Tattoo, this has been Hubby's favourite thing we've done so far.
We review our options list and decide to head for Glamis Castle for a quick look, sus it out. The drive over to Glamis from Stanley is absolutely gorgeous. A gasp-worthy moment as we round a corner and there’s an elegant arched bridge spanning a forest lined waterway. Later we can see the Cairngorms off in the distance brooding silently with their backs marbled in green and purpley-brown. I can’t take my eyes off them and the patchwork of fields flowing across the landscape in gentle rolling plains.  I try to capture the mountains, but they vanish in the photographs as though they are merely a mirage. I fail miserably in trying to describe the jewel like beauty of the scene. Nature is requiring us to live in the moment.
It’s not a long journey to Glamis Castle and there’s no turning back once we see those gates and the drive extending beyond. We head in and drive, and drive, and drive through the park to reach the castle itself, paying our £11 each for both house and garden access. 
We are very conscious of limited time so we make our way directly to the kick off point for the house tours. There’s a 20 minute wait until the next tour leaves, so we head to get some lunch in the onsite restaurant, which is in a huge space that looks like it must once have been the castle kitchens. We’re not all that hungry after the massive breakfast at Dalqueich Farmhouse so first up we decide to try the Cullen Skink. It is extremely good. I think it is the best Cullen Skink we’ve had so far. Very creamy and lots of body. Perfect with the slice of bread and butter provided. Delicious!! I decide I’ll have a bowl of that, but Hubby decides He’ll give me the one we’ve got and order a bowl of the soup of the day which is Leek and Potato, just to try that as well. The Leek and Potato is on a strongly flavoured chicken stock base by the taste of it, also good but not really in the race with their wonderful Cullen Skink.
We gobble up the last dregs and head off because it is almost time for the tour to depart. There’s some displays in the waiting area to keep us amused. I read ones about the restoration of the chapel and a royal visit by Charles and Camilla back in 2008. Then our guide arrives and leads us into the dining room.  Wow! Wow! And let me just say WOW!! It’s one very very impressive space and they have the table set up with the silverware. The silver Galleon on the table was a gift from the estate tenants for an anniversary! It’s enormous. It’s not a terribly old space having been built when so much lavish construction was going on in the 19th century but it certainly makes a statement. The table can seat 36 -40 when fully extended and by the way, you can hire this space for functions. I don’t ask how much that would cost, though I do wonder. It must surely be a LOT.  We move on through what feels like a stone passageway but is in fact the walls of the original building- they are 10 feet thick. We’re now in what is called the crypt. Once covered in plaster a change in fashion had that all stripped back and for the last hundred or so years they’ve been bare stone. They are decorated with lots and lots of trophy heads many of them from various African antelope. Eland, Hartebeest. It’s awful but as they’ve killed for them, I’d rather they were up than just tossed away or put in the basement.  There’s also lots of armour including some from Cromwell’s Army who raided Glamis in their rampages across the country. Bastards. The heavy furniture in this area is Jacobean. On another section of wall there is a scold’s bridle. We’re given some time to look around and then we’re on the move again. Next is the current drawing room and this too is filled with amazing paintings and furniture. The most amazing thing in this room for me was the paintings of the great and the good wearing flesh coloured armour. Apparently this was fashionable in France at the time. It’s gross. Truly. What were they thinking? These blokes look naked but not in an attractive way. As we walk through the corridors we see many more impressive paintings, I noticed one portrait by Lely as I walked by. Just trying to maintain the artwork here must be quite an expensive job.
There’s also a very significant feature in this room celebrating the union of the crowns. It’s the royal coat of arms surrounded on one side by a garland of thistles and on the other by a garland of roses. We hear of the great optimism of the time about what this union would bring and indeed, it has brought much prosperity and lasting domestic peace for both Scotland and England, well, after a bit of ructions along the way.
We take a seat in the chapel, which is still used by the family and was extensively restored back in the 1980s. It’s dedicated to St Michael and All Saints. The ceiling is painted in scenes from the life of Christ by the Jacob de Wet an artist of the Dutch golden age. The walls feature paintings by the same artist of Simon wearing glasses and Mary Magdalene finding Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.  We hear the story of the resident ghost.. but no spoiler here from me on that one, or the other ghosts said to frequent the castle and we move along into what is now the Billiard Room but originally the Library.  There’s a fusty sort of smell which probably comes from the enormous number of ancient books. This room too has a venerable history including some features lingering from the Great War when Glamis was used as a convalescent home for veterans. It is here we see a portrait of the heiress who contributed the name Bowes to the family who had previously been Lyons. She was the richest heiress in Europe, daughter of a Durham coal magnate and her father had stipulated that to get the money the person who married Eleanor Bowes had to take the Bowes name. Easy peasy. Change your name to get the fortune. Later generations picked the Lyons name back up to give the double barrel surname of Bowes Lyons.
The later section of the tour takes us through the bedrooms of significant royal persons including the Queen Mother and 14th Countess. There’s much of interest but perhaps the highlight in these rooms for me was the embroidered copy of an Italian art work, the two hanging side by side on the wall. I ask who was responsible for the embroidered copy and our guide thinks probably the 14th Countess, who also embroidered the bed furnishings. As the group moves on, myself and a man on the tour each go over for a close look at the embroidery. It is absolutely perfect and completely stunning. Whoever did it was extremely proficient. Extremely proficient.
The tour ends after we visit another room from the original building where people would enter and surrender their arms which were then locked in the adjacent room. The family calls this Duncan’s Hall in homage to the fictitious location of King Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
We have no time to spare now because we are due in Aberdeen by 6pm. We can’t leave without a photo of the whole enormous castle so I walk around the front to do that but we have no time to explore the gardens or pinetum today. We pile in the car and take the fastest route into Aberdeen arriving pretty much on time for getting the keys to our AirBnB apartment. First of all we need to complete the journey to get off the estate. It's a trek.
Immediately after turning out of the main drive we enter a tunnel of greenery with the light breaking through as the angle of the sun becomes more acute. 
What we see of Glamis Village is quaint with low stone cottages. It would have been nice to have time to explore the Estate and village in more detail but you come to accept that you're probably going to feel like that in most places and we head determinedly on.
We come into Aberdeen as peak hour is underway, but luckily we are going against the traffic.  Duthie Park looks lovely, check out those awesome looking bobsled tracks!  There’s more mass begonia planting in roadside parks.  There’s no question at all we’re back in the big smoke now. Aberdeen has a very strong atmosphere of prosperity. Everything looks well maintained and tidy. We pass through some of the inner city streets heading for our apartment and I know immediately I’ve made a mistake. 2 nights in Aberdeen really isn’t enough. After some of the comments I’ve read about Aberdeen I’m very pleasantly surprised at what I’m seeing. We pass Marischal College. It’s gasp worthy and recently cleaned. It’s now a very elegant shade of silver grey and the ornate stonework is fabulous.  The streets have abundant hanging baskets or tubs of summer flowers the whole effect is lovely. 
So, what’s for dinner tonight? We decide to go for a jaunt down to Stonehaven to check it out but aren’t tempted to stop so we go for our other option and return to Aberdeen and head for the Tippling House. Moments of emotion as without any particular effort we find ourselves on Chapel Street, which I notice has a particularly good array of flower baskets brightening the place up and other streets where I know my forebears lived all those years ago. 
Parking is simple in the Harriet Street car park – once we find it! Then we have a ridiculous adventure trying to find our way out of the joint and onto Harriet St. Up, down, round and round. It's all very simple really - including us. But at least our timing is good. We're in the right place to listen to the bells of St Nicholas chime the quarter hour.
It’s almost as hard to find the Tippling House, but eventually we spot it down a narrow doorway.  The bar /restaurant is underground and quite dark and we’re a bit uncertain about it at first but we’re given a choice of tables and brought a menu. First drink for Hubby is Bearface Lager by Drygate Brewery which comes with an elaborate description: Heavy on the hops, light on the tongue. Clean and crisp citrus hints. Lager that refreshes the body. Vigorous. Sounds like he should be showering in it.  I hesitate and our waiter, who can only be described as suave with a twist of public school, recommends a mocktail. Sure. Lets go with that.  Unfortunately the mocktail recommended can’t be done tonight, but the barman mixes me up something else. It’s smokey and delicious. Food here is what I would think of as American in style. Again our waiter anticipates what we need to know. Reassured we order the Tippling House vs Meat for £20 which we are advised would generally be sufficient for both of us. This includes Meatloaf sliders; Chicken and chorizo croquettes; chicken wings in red pepper and tobacco ketchup; marinated chump of lamb. I was a bit worried that some of the items might be spicier than I like but not so. Everything is delicious and we have just the right amount of food. Hubby is determined to try the desserts and equally determined that we will both have one so we get to try both menu options. Warm carrot cake comes with sweet carrot ribbons and salted caramel ice cream. Hubby’s gone for the Bourbon and walnut tart with maple whisky ice cream. Both desserts were good but not outstanding, and perhaps a tad expensive at £6 and £6.50 respectively. We may be hard task masters given we’ve been pretty spoiled lately.
Heading back to the car is considerably easier than finding our way out of the carpark and it’s no time at all before we’re back home, bickering about parking spots and groaning that this late in the evening we need to park down the street a fair way. Never mind.  Time for bed.