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 ...
- 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.
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.