As far as me and my lil ol' bank account are concerned, stay-cations are the way forward! So last weekend I booked myself a flight to (not so) sunny Scotland and traveled up to Aberdeen with some friends, to see what the Highlands have to offer - and yes, that is a flock of sheep crossing the road!
Our first stop was the coastal town of Fraserburgh, in search of the famous Harbour Lighthouse. It was so serene walking through the town, seeing all the boats bobbing along while the fishermen went about their daily business. While we saw the lighthouse and it's beacon from afar, we didn't quite manage to get as close as we would've liked, though not for lack of trying. After getting lost about a dozen times trying to drive up to the beacon, we decided to abandon the car and hike our way up to the closest point. Naturally, moments after we started walking, the heavens opened and we were soaked within seconds! We had to brace ourselves against gale force winds, but managed to scramble back along the cliff edge to the heritage center. We arrived wet and windswept, grateful to grab a hot cup of tea and homemade scone. Suffice to say, we decided that our coastal adventures were enough for one day and retreated to our hotel, where I relaxed and recovered in the spa, post to follow!
balmoral castle & estate
Queen Victoria wrote in her journal that the Balmoral Estate was her 'dear paradise in the highlands' and after visiting, I can certainly see why. Although our tour didn't take us much into the castle itself, the 50,000 acre estate is quite simply a place of incomparable natural beauty. Boasting the Dee river valley, mountains and an abundance of woodlands, you are really encourage to go out and explore the scenes that continue to influence the royal family to this day. The tallest mountain of the estate, Lochnagar, even inspired the story of The Old Man of Lochnagar, told by the Prince of Wales to his younger brothers. The story was published in 1980, with royalties to The Prince's Trust. There is a small museum with personal family photographs, a cinema where you can watch a film about the history of the estate and it's current running, and also the ballroom which you can see as part of the tour, but I have to say the landscape steals the show, and some of the scenic views will steal your breath away too.
You can't think Scotland, without thinking shortbread, and we were lucky enough to get a sneaky peak inside a working shortbread factory. Dean's still follow Helen Dean's original shortbread recipe, using ingredients from the same suppliers, much to the same mouthwatering effect! I would definitely recommend a trip, you get to have a look at the factory itself, which reminded me somewhat of Willy Wonka's! There is also a cafe, and all of the staff are really friendly and incredible generous, so apologies for the lack of photos but, I'll be honest, I was too busy eating my body weight in samples.
Or what's left of it. The ruins of what once was the hiding place of Scotland's crown jewels sit majestically on a cliff 50m above the North Sea. A very very narrow path leads the way, but the hike is not the only thing that will leave you breathless. The castle and surrounding coastline are so worth the cautious trek, the views are simply stunning.
Set between the rolling Grampian Mountains, is a pop of pink that will awaken a fairytale fantasy in anybody. It is even rumored to have inspired Walt Disney's castle motif! And that was it, short but sweet, my Aberdeen adventures came to an end far too soon, and I walked to the airport leaving snowy footprints behind me. There is something so wonderfully wild and free about the highlands, and as much as I loved seeing all these places, it was incredible just driving along the open landscape, through mountains and over the hills, I haven't got enough of the sweet Scottish air, and I know I'll be back soon.