Friday, July 26, 2013

Riding The Aberdeenshire Circuit

Navigator and I went to the Highland Games in Inverness on Saturday. On Sunday, it was time for a road trip, and my first occasion to drive on the island of Great Britain since 2004 - in a vehicle with a manual transmission, no less! I got the "hire"/rental car all sorted out, picked Navigator up, and we were off. We had a look at an old Michelin map of Scotland that I'd purchased for my original Scottish adventure in 2004, agreed upon an agenda for the day, fueled up the car, and set out on a southward course on the A90.

Our first stop was RAF Edzell. Edzell is technically located outside Aberdeenshire in what was once Angus County, but which now falls under the purview of the Tayside council district. My buddy Chops was once stationed there while serving in the United States Navy. Mere days after my arrival in Aberdeen, I received the following message (with a Google Maps link) from Chops:
Your mission, while you're over there, is to find this building. I lived in room 13C of Campbell Hall. I doubt it's still called that, and I'm somewhat dubious the building even still stands. If you get some time, eventually, travel down there and take pictures of the barracks. No hurry. Just figured you'd probably get a chance to look at it before I will.
- chops
It probably took us just under an hour to get to Edzell. I'd programmed waypoints into my GPS handset before heading out to get the car, and once we'd used it to find the location Chops had given me, we got a couple of pictures and were on our way. One of my best friends from my undergraduate days bore the last name "Strachan", which I've also seen on some vans running around Aberdeen at one point or another. Our route from Point B to Point D ran through the village of Strachan, so I got a couple of pictures of street signs to send to him. On the way, we saw some fantastic scenery, so we got stopped for photo ops a couple of times. From there, Strachan, it was on to Balmoral Castle.

Located on the banks of the River Dee, tucked away into a well forested area, Balmoral Castle is actually the royal family's hunting lodge and home in Scotland. (This is to say, it's not actually much of a castle.) It was built in the days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Despite it being a very warm day, we enjoyed a leisurely walk from the front gates to the settlement. In all honesty, it struck me as more of a tourist attraction than anything particularly conducive to either hunting or use as a royal holiday home, but it's a beautiful site. Navigator had wanted to go see it, and although I'd heard the place mentioned, I wouldn't have gone to see it if it hadn't been for meeting her.

The last leg of our trip was from Balmoral Castle to the Stonehead Croft. A "croft" is a small holding, essentially a small plot of land operated as a farm. The Stonehead Croft is located outside the Aberdeenshire village of Insch, near the neolithic Stonehead Circle and Dunnideer Castle. Stonehead/"Stoney" has been blogging in one form or another for nearly nineteen years. I discovered the blog when I was living in Virginia, though I don't remember how. Since I was planning on coming to Aberdeen, and since Stoney writes on such interesting topics that I've had no exposure to anywhere else, I've always found his writing interesting. I won't reveal the exact location of the croft in a futile attempt to protect the family's privacy; for my part, I used Wikimapia to compare the roofs and layouts of the farm buildings in the general vicinity of those two archaeological sites in order to determine the location of the croft. As I mentioned previously, Stoney has already posted about the visit, and I don't have much to add to his account, aside to say that we were humbled by the hospitality of Stoney and the "Other Half", who took us on a tour of the croft. I've been invited back for lunch, and I'll be sure to take a few pictures to share with everyone.

After a total trip of about seven hours and about 170 miles, we arrived back in Aberdeen. Navigator crashed for the evening, and I went to get chips, cheese, and fillet from Lionel's and see The World's End with CN GBU-16 and CN Homeboy. After the film had ended, as I was standing at the bus stop thinking, I couldn't help but think that I'd enjoyed a very successful weekend chock full of great Scottish experiences.

The next day, it was back to work on The Dissertation.

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