Linn of Dee

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, May 23, 2005

A few weeks later we got a really good opportunity to re-visit one of our favourite places, Linn of Dee which is just an hour and a half away from home by car. Our first global freeloader had arranged to come and stay with us - yes, it was our turn to repay some of the hospitality we had received whilst we were travelling. Magda, a twentysomething Polish student had asked to stay for a couple of nights. We were quite excited - if all else failed we could bore her with our travel tales and she'd have to nod along out of politeness!! No it wasn't like that really, the conversation flowed nicely and she was genuinely interested in our trip - honest!!!

She arrived on the Friday night complete with stray fellow hitchhiker in tow, a Swedish guy named Joel who was hitching round Scotland, and she asked if he could stay too! We had a few reservations at first, it's not something we would have done but then we also wanted to help him out, so as long as he didn't mind the floor, that was fine. On the Friday it was just a traditionnal British fish supper all round, a few pints of not so Scottish Guiness and lots of story swapping. Joel headed off on his way the next morning and we set about showing Magda some of the best the area has to offer and we packed it in quite well.

We started off by going to Linn of Dee, a fantastic place rich in natural beauty and the unspoilt scenery of mountains, lochs, woodlands and rivers. The best bit is that you virtually get it all to yourself as for some unknown reason, although it's close to the popular town of Braemar, we hardly ever see anyone else there! We are actually thinking of having our wedding here as there's a fantastic country house complete with chapel right in the middle of it all. Only drawbacks are a) the weather definitely cannot be relied upon around here and b) the main function hall could be aptly renamed the Bambi Holocaust with hundreds of deer heads lining the walls and with the risk of impaling several small children on the antlers, it could spoil things somewhat.... Anyway, I digress so I'll get back to it.

We wandered along the riverside throughout the woodland listening only to the peaceful sound of the river running by before driving back into Braemar where we introduced Magda to Haggis. We could only manage to find a haggis pie but she seemed to enjoy it and afterall, no true Scottish experience could be complete without a taste of Haggis!! Our next stop was Braemar Castle which we viewed only from the outside before arriving in the historic town of Ballater. Whilst we wandered around the ample selection of tea and antique shops, Magda set off and explored the Railway Museum detailing the history of the nearby Royal Deeside Railway built for Queen Victoria to enable her to visit her country estate of Balmoral easily. It's a nice enough little town but not one you could get lost in for hours so we set off again. We were thinking of visiting Balmoral itself but none of us were that keen on the inflated entrance fee so instead we went to a place called Burn 'O' Vat. It's another really cool little place where a small waterfall tumbles into a pool of blueish green water encircled by a natural vat of rock. It's pretty nice - quiet and unspoilt and quite unique so worth a short visit before we headed back to Aberdeen and then onto Stonehaven, just south of which is the ruined castle of Dunottar.

Dunottar Castle is a pretty spectacular site when you first see it. A beautiful ruin standing precariously alone on an enormous flat topped rock with sheer cliffs on three sides against the dramatic backdrop of the North Sea where the waves crash onto the rocks beneath. It's rumoured to be one of the top sights in Scotland and it certainly has a wild and dramatic feel to it when you visit.

The castle holds much of Scotland's rich and tragic history. William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots visited but it's most famous for the battle against Cromwell's army when the Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the 'Honours of Scotland' were saved from destruction. The present buildings date from between the 14th and 17th centuries with several buildings burnt to the ground and rebuilt as the result of various battles throughout history. An older castle on the same site was held by the English in 1297 and then fell to Wallace, who burned the English alive when they took refuge inside the church. In 1595, some of the victims of a witch hunting campaign in Aberdeen were burned at the stake there. The castle later became the home of the Earl Marischal of Scotland who was responsible for the security of the 'Honours of Scotland' when Oliver Cromwell invaded in 1650 and although the castle fell after eight months of siege to Oliver Cromwell's army, it was not before the Honours of Scotland had been smugggled out.

We wanted to go inside and explore the ruin completely but unfortunately it was closed and we had to settle with viewing it from the outside, only imagining what lies within. You see, Kev and I have never been inside either, we'll save it for another visit, undoubtedly when another freeloader visits. Instead we wandered down to the beach below and watched the waves crashing in.

I think that just about sums up our whistlestop tour of Aberdeenshire with Magda, she seemed to really enjoy it and so did we. We dropped her off on the dual carriageway the next morning so she could hitch a ride South. Now we'll have to start thinking about where we'll go next, we'll keep you posted....

S & K
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