A few days ago Michael and I had a real treat: a trip out to the countryside! A family friend spent time with the Dafter while we had a chance to head west along the River Dee. We picked a beautiful day for it: the winds were strong (but nothing like the gales the day after), and it was very cold indeed, but bright and clear with blue skies. Our first stop was Tomnaverie stone circle near the village of Tarland:
We hadn’t been out of the city since our trip to Harris in July, and it was just great to be able to enjoy the countryside. (Even if she were perfectly well, this kind of day is NOT high on the list of the Dafter’s favy things to do!). And of course, having driven an hour to a relatively remote archaeological site, what happened? The other two people who came along while we were there, were people we knew from church in Aberdeen! So we had a bit of a catch-up and enjoyed the stone circle together.
The site is managed by Historic Scotland, and the information tablet states that the stone circle was built about 2500 B.C. The recumbent stone (between the two standing stones) faces south, and once in a generation the full moon comes low over the mountain of Lochnagar, seen just beyond the recumbent stone.
My dear friend and neighbour, Mrs. Mary Morrison (1908-2003) used to come with her husband to Tarland for picnics. She said, “It was always sunny in Tarland”. And so it was the day we visited – but Lochnagar was covered in clouds. The sun wasn’t strong enough to melt the ice in the puddles, and we had our picnic in the car!
We drove next to the village of Aboyne, on the River Dee. If you’ve ever been to Oregon, or the Pacific Northwest generally, you can see from the photo below why Aboyne reminds me so much of where I grew up:
Except for the stone wall and house – but note the pretty wooden decoration – those tall pines are very like the ones you see dotted about Portland, Oregon.
We were pleased to see that Strachan’s, a wonderful general store in the village, has been completely rebuilt since it was gutted by fire a few years ago. I remember feeling heart-sick looking at the ruin, but you wouldn’t know to see it now:
Its full name, as you see, is Strachan’s of Royal Deeside. I will never forget another elderly neighbour telling me, with a tremendous rolling of Rs, that he was originally from “Rrrrroyal Deeside!” It’s called Royal Deeside because of Balmoral castle, a bit further up the River Dee from Aboyne. In Aboyne, and even more so in Ballater, the village closest to Balmoral, you see these insignias on shops that indicate they are patronised by the Royal Family:
We stopped for a quick cuppa – and really to warm our poor frozen hands and noses – at the Gordon Arms hotel in Aboyne. The staff were very friendly and we were soon revived. I liked the stained-glass window in the lounge where we sat. Apparently, the Gordon Arms has been there since the 1700s, although the stained glass is a bit more modern I’m sure! It shows a scene from the Aboyne Highland Games:
We then set out for a wee walk, across the River Dee and out of the village, towards the “Fungle Road”. (I don’t know where the name comes from, but better Fungle than Fungal.) It was great to walk along by the beautiful woods of Scots pines:
The Fungle Road was a droving path over the mountains – a road taken by cattle drovers with cattle destined for the markets further south. It was a dangerous crossing as there were bandits hiding in the hills. The woods is a mix of pine and birch (called “birks” in Scots). The lichen was really amazing:
We didn’t go very far into the forest, because there was water streaming down the path off the hill, and it was getting dark.
Our last stop was for another cuppa at The Potarch Inn, on the banks of the River Dee not far from Banchory. The fire was warm and although I took the photo at a relatively empty moment, we had to wait for a table when we arrived, it was so busy. We really enjoyed our day out. It was a great way to start 2012. And the Dafter had a fine time too, so all were happy!