Posted by: christinelaennec | April 1, 2012

Early spring in Deeside’s Glen Tanar

Michael and I had a chance to get out to the countryside yesterday, and we grabbed it!  The last day of March was chilly – and snowflakes had been seen on Deeside the night before – but the sun was out a little bit more to the West than it was in Aberdeen (as so often) and so we headed for Glen Tanar.  We took a roundabout route, and our first stop was the lovely village of Torphins.  We were amused to find that the local grocery store had moved into one of the two churches in the centre of the village:

The local grocery store inhabits one of the two church buildings in Torphins. (Do you think they stock Communion wine too?)

This is an unusual use for a church, but a good one, I think.  All over Scotland there are many deconsecrated churches used as nightclubs, car repair shops, hotels and barns.  One of the reasons for this dates back to the great schism in the Scottish church in 1843, called The Disruption.  Suddenly rival churches were being built for those who’d left the original church – very often right across the road from the original church.  (Aren’t people funny?!)  There are many street corners in Scotland with two churches kitty-corner from one another.  The small village of Torphins is no different:  there are two churches across the road from one another.  One of them is now the grocery store (I think it might have been an antique shop before), and the other still functions as a church.

Having bought ourselves a picnic, we went to Platform 22 for morning coffee.  It’s a lovely place.  I particularly like the cut-out overhang:

Platform 22 in Torphins

We had yummy homemade scones, and enjoyed looking at the beautiful ceramics:

Platform 22 in Torphins - pottery by the owner, Emma Pattullo.

Then, suitably refreshed, it was off to Glen Tanar:

The road into Glen Tanar, Deeside, Aberdeenshire. 31 March 2012.

I really love the architecture you see on Deeside: beautiful granite cottages and buildings, with lovely painted woodwork and trims.  The cottages and office of the Glen Tanar Estate are very pretty, but my very favourite building is this wooden one.  It might have been transported here from my childhood summer camp on the Oregon Coast!

Glen Tanar: some of the houses and Estate offices at the top of the glen.

It was beautifully quiet, except for the singing of many birds, and the soothing sound of this old fountain:

An old spring, still running. Glen Tanar, Deeside, Aberdeenshire.

Here is another glimpse of the architecture:

Beautiful building, Glen Tanar Estate.

The scent of the Scots pines was wonderful:

Forest in Glen Tanar

We had our picnic by the “Water of Tanar,” a tributary of the River Dee.  Although it was sunny, the wind was almost icy and we were very glad of our hats and gloves.  (Difficult to eat a sandwich with gloves, however…)

Water of Tanar, Glen Tanar, Deeside

Leaving the Glen, just before you go down a steep hill, there’s a sign that says, “Ca canny doon the brae”:  Go carefully down the hill.  And so we did.  On our way home we felt the need for more refreshment and were amused to find the Chatterbox Café (or possibly tearoom?) in the bustling town of Banchory:

”],We had a fine cup of tea and shared a delicious slice of gingerbread.  For fellow fans of the Lake Wobegon stories who will get the reference, I didn’t see Father Emil (priest of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility) or any Norwegian bachelor farmers.  But it may be that in Banchory as well, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above-average”.

I hope you’re all having a fine weekend and haven’t been April Fooled too much today!  The Dafter got me good this morning…



  1. Beautiful! It was a pity about the icy wind but sounds as if you made the most of your lovely day out. Those look like two very interesting tearooms, too…just going to make a little note to self. I agree about the architecture of Deeside, it’s wonderful. There are so many parts of Scotland with interesting buildings and Deeside and Aberdeenshire have their own character due to the hard-wearing granite. I always think Victorian buildings in Aberdeen look very freshly built.

    • We were just so grateful to have clear skies and some sun. We knew we would need the hats and gloves. Yes, if you venture up this way I would try both of those tearooms. I was thinking of you! Glad you like the architecture as much as I do. And yes, there is a freshness about the granite buildings in Aberdeen. I think it’s possible to squint and believe you’re here a hundred years ago, sometimes. Probably the lack of pea soupers, and horse manure on the roads, is a clue to the present day!

  2. Thanks for that. Glen Tanar is a part of Aberdeenshire I havent visited.
    Those tea rooms just might persuade me to go!

    • I think you would like it, Jill! Lots of local art happening.

  3. I was so taken by your pictures of this lovely area that I googled it to see where it was exactly. did you take the A93 there and back? where you on the estate or just having a walk around? It was interesting to see the geography of it all. I feel a bit silly but I didn’t realize that Aberdeen was south of Inverness and also that there is a road from Braemar to Aberdeen. When we went to Braemar it was through Blairgowrie and then we must have retraced our steps south to drive home. it sounds like a wonderful day out and thanks for the pictures of this area that I know very little about. 🙂

    • Hi there ajb,
      To answer your question about our route, we wandered West from Aberdeen across the countryside following various roads to get to Torphins, and from there to Aboyne, beyond which it’s just a few miles to Glen Tanar. We took the A93 home – known to us at the “North Deeside Road”. There’s also the South Deeside Road, to the South of the Dee as its name suggests! It’s very picturesque but twistier and slower and by that point in the day we didn’t have extra time.

      The Glen Tanar Estate, like so many of the estates that comprise Scottish highlands, is very big. From the moment you cross the Dee on the other side of Aboyne, you are on the estate, which includes the road, small settlements, the houses and estate offices at the head of the Glen itself, and acres of woodland and wilderness. You might find their website interesting: There are maps that can show you the buildings we walked past at the beginning of our walk. Their names evoke a bygone era: “Butler’s Lodge,” “Woodend,” “Estate Office,” “Ballroom”! Most of their buildings now seem to be rented out as tourist destinations. Very lovely!

  4. Looks like a wonderful day out, Christine. I love this rural Scottish architecture. I was just saying to Ewan at the weekend that my favourite houses are the ones with the green painted pine tree trunks holding up a front porch.
    You’ve made me think I should maybe give Garrison Keillor another go. I last read Lake Wobegon on a stormy ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen, when I was felled by seasickness. The books and nausea have been linked in my mind for many years.

    • Linda, I was trying to get a photo of one of those tree-trunk porches! I will some day. Sorry to hear about your sea-sick Lake Wobegon experience. We first heard the stories told on the radio by G K himself in the 1980s – on the Prairie Home Companion. I can hear his voice when I read them in book form. I’d try them again (on dry land though).

  5. I love those early spring days with bright sun, fast moving clouds, brisk air and all the signs of spring. Thanks for giving me a virtual weekend drive in the country.

  6. Sounds like you had a good day out here in Deeside Christine. The weather has most certainly changed today from the record breaking 23.6 degrees we had last week here in Aboyne to a nippy 2 degrees and snow this morning.
    Every building here on Glen Tanar Estate is diffrent. Cunliffe Brooks certainly made a good job of the architecture all those years ago. The wooden building that you like up near the office here is the old Recreation Hall. This used to be where all the staff and their families gathered for dances and get togethers.
    Hopefully the next time you are out here you will be able to enjoy your lunch without having to wear gloves 🙂

    • Thank you so much for writing in! I must look up Cunliffe Brooks, I don’t know his name. I’m so glad there were a lot of good times in Glen Tanar. It’s really a special place. I hope you are keeping warm in this very cold start to April!

  7. Thank you for another beautiful tour of your lovely countryside. I love the little tea rooms, and isn’t it interesting about your churches! We have one little wood church here that was turned into a residence, but have never seen one used as a grocery store!

    I love the little river with the stones scattered about and the piney woodlands. They make me nostalgic for my New England childhood where we lived among the pines. I can almost catch the scent as I sit here, looking at your lovely photos.

    Your little excursion sounds wonderful and I am glad to hear you had such a lovely day. xx

    • There are many churches in the cities that have been made into flats. I always think it must be nice to live in one – though I’m sure there will be people who feel quite the opposite! Yes the scent of pines is wonderful. I’m glad it took you back to New England. I’m surprised that there is a different kind of forest there than in Washington – you will have to write a post to explain! I suppose the New England forests are more deciduous?

  8. Beautiful! Is the climate similar to Oregan? Snowier, I’m guessing.

    • Yes, Scotland is similar to Oregon, except often snowier and nowhere near as warm here in the summer. People here start to keel over when it reaches 80 degrees F. (I suppose it depends on which part of Scotland you pick to compare to which part of Oregon!)

  9. I love the idea of grocery shopping in a beautiful old church. Your communion wine comment cracked me up.

  10. You found two good tearooms in one day? I must retrace your steps! 🙂

  11. […] Early spring in Deeside’s Glen Tanar ( […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: