Saturday, May 16, 2009

Holiday over

So what other delights came my way during my northerly tour?

Firstly ~ daffodils :: drifts and swathes and gusts of daffodils everywhere - hardly a stretch of road without them it seemed, in gardens, in fields and on roadsides. My Australian family were particularly delighted with these.

Secondly ~ lambs :: I had not seen any before we left, but they seemed to be in almost every field as we drove, some appearing to have dropped to earth the moment before we passed. Strangely though, by the time we had crossed the Scottish border there were no more. However, by the time we left ten days later Deeside had its own crop of new lambs too.

Thirdly ~ my very first red squirrel, with its cute little tufty ears, feeding outside the window of my daughter-in-law's parents' house. Very difficult to get a shot from inside the house, but I didn't dare even approach the window, in case I startled him. It seems that deer come too to their garden, which is set into the edge of the forest, but sadly I did not see one. Nor did we ever manage to see any real highland cattle, with their shaggy coats, short legs and long horns.

Birds ~ I saw my first oystercatcher too, described from a distance by a friend of my son's who knew no better, as "that big bird with a carrot in its mouth"! Also plenty of buzzards, but no eagles, and only a stuffed capercaillie at the Balmoral Castle museum.

That seems to lead by a natural progression to ...

Food ~ I tried three types of game that I had never eaten before:
  • Roast pheasant, cooked by my son's mother-in-law, which was absolutely scrumptions;
  • Scottish Wood Pigeon en croute which I didn't like at all (very gamey), and passed over to my son to finish; and

  • Loin of Glen Muick Venison, which I found passable, but wouldn't order again.

The last two were ordered at a posh hotel when we went out to dinner one night. I deliberately took a risk, as I felt I should try something both new and local. I'm glad I did, just to be able to say so, but if I ever go there again I shall go for the halibut or the pork! It was all very elegantly cooked and served, and at the start of the meal we were presented with complimentary portions of thick mushroom soup, served in individual mini soup tureens, with a flaky pastry lid over the top. Now that I did like, as well as the Vanilla Pannacotta with cherries soaked in kirsch to finish.

That was at the Darroch Learg Hotel and Restaurant in Ballater. For more ordinary meals with the children as well, we went twice to The Potarch Hotel (more like an Inn) at Banchory. Here everybody could be served rather more quickly, and eat generously and appropriately, and those young enough to be energised by a big meal could go outside afterwards to play on a massive expanse of green field beside the River Dee.

We also went to a delightful farm shop and tearoom at Finzean, off the road from Aboyne to Banchory. Lots of freezers filled not only with farm grown fruit and veg, but also pies and cakes and other goodies. Upstairs in the restaurant were mixed salad platters with various meats and fish, soups and sandwiches. And every spare corner stuffed with attractive books, toys, household goods and accessories. Very difficult to walk away without a shopping bag filled with something. This review is worth reading if you have a chance to go there.

Then there was my favourite bolt-hole right in the middle of Aboyne: the Coffee House and Emporium at The Sign of The Black Faced Sheep. They serve the most delicious cakes, a good variety of drinks, and mixed salad platters that are to die for. I went back there many times, with the whole family and on my own, and even brought one of their salad platters back to the b&b when I wanted a restful day. Strangely enough, although their emporium was stuffed with attractive goods, they didn't actually have any cards or other souvenirs of black faced sheep. This was a pity, as my Australian family were particularly looking for something of the sort to take home to a friend in Sydney.
And finally, the air ~ clean and fresh, blowing in off the North Sea, decidedly brisk when the sun was not warming us, but giving such a clarity to every prospect, from the village green nearby to the forests all around and the distant snowy peaks.
[Pictures from the web]


Lee said...

Stop that! I'll get the wanderlust again!

annie said...

Welcome home, Judith, and thsnksfor sharing what you enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

This is all so interesting and brings back memories of a similar trip I took with my husband back in 1979. Too bad you couldn't get a Black faced sheep for your family to take back home. Ours is still a prized possession and made of such lovely fleece. I adored Scotland. The Daffodils were indeed plentiful and I can't get even my few to bloom this year at home.

kapgaf said...

A very Wordsworthian picture !
So glad you enjoyed it all and were able to have some time to yourself - a very necessary sanity saver when family gets overwhelming!

Granny J said...

Wow! What a wonderful trip you had, Judith. I enjoyed every moment of it. Thanks for sharing.