When I arrived back in Scotland at the Aberdeen airport from Amsterdam late in the evening of April 29th, I hailed a taxi to take me to Lindsay’s house. The cab driver naturally asked me where I wanted to go. When I told him Lindsay’s address, he looked up at me through his rearview mirror, smiled, and said, “I think I’ve driven you to that address before! When I saw you approach the cab, I thought you looked rather familiar!”
“Geez! I’ve been here so often, the locals are beginning to recognize me,” I thought and then replied, “Yes, that’s right, you have. What a great memory you have!” He was friendly and quite chatty as if he was catching up on news with an old friend. He inquired about what my plans were for this trip, how long I’d be visiting this time and what I was looking forward to. I told him, “One of the first things I want to do is to wrap my lips around a good fish supper at The Ashvale! I’ve been Jonesin’ for some good fish & chips!” He promptly replied, “Well, The Ashvale is a good standard, to be sure, but if you want the “best” this area has to offer, head down to Stonehaven to The Bay chipper; you won’t be disappointed! In addition, there is a great ice cream shop right next door for dinner AND dessert!”
“Okay then,” I said, “I’ll definitely do that! Thanks for the recommendation!”
Fast forward a couple of days… after Lindsay and I visited Crathes Castle & Gardens on May 3rd, I spent the following day writing a new blog post about my adventures on the Magnifique III Bike & Boat Tulip Tour.
Near the end of the day, I had published it and then asked Lindsay, “What’s for dinner tonight?”
He thought for a moment and then suggested a trip to The Ashvale for a fish supper.
I promptly inquired, “Have you ever been to The Bay chipper in Stonehaven? The taxi driver highly recommended it the other day.” Lindsay hadn’t been there before so we hopped in the car and headed straightway! Something new for both of us.
As we made the descent into the bay of Stonehaven, I stopped the car to get a picture. I love this little place all snug in the bay and remembered I didn’t have a good photo of it in my collection. One of the reasons I like it so much much is because one of my favorite castles, Dunnotter, sits just on the far side of the southern tip of the bay.
If I zoom in I can just see the top of Dunnotter’s ruinous rooftops peeking over the top of the hilltop directly east of the War Memorial sitting on the highest point of the hill above it.
In no time at all, we were down in the center of the bay parked in front of the chip shop and my mouth was already watering! “Boy, this place IS popular! Just like the taxi driver said it was!” I remarked to Lindsay.
“Aahhh! Now that’s what I call heaven in a box!”
We devoured those fish suppers and drove leisurely back home with full tummy’s. No room for dessert this time. Darn! We’ll have to come back sometime!
The following day, May 5th, we packed our bags in preparation for a weekend get-away on the northern coast near Elgin, loaded up the car, and took off cross-country through the Cairngorm National Park instead of taking the more direct route northeast along the A96 highway through Inverurie and Keith; it’s so much more scenic, although it takes considerably longer!
We headed due east, driving for about 40 miles until we arrived in Strathdon, just inside the boundaries of the Cairngorm NP. Lindsay, and his late wife, Helen, used to have a cottage here that they rented for years when their kids were little. They spent many a weekend in this wonderful little village making treasured family memories and I have enjoyed hearing the many stories he enjoys retelling during my many visits. We decided it was about time to take a “butt break” so we pulled up to the pretty little Parish Church to stretch our legs.
We wandered around the church and the gravestones for a little while.
Some of Lindsay’s stories about his memories at Strathdon involve his neighbor, Sir Hamish Stewart Forbes, 7th Baronet, who was a British army officer who served in the Welsh Guards in World War II and spent over 5 years in custody as a Germany POW. Evidently, Hamish wasn’t the usual ‘snooty’ type of Laird, but actually quite down-to-earth, friendly and well-liked by all in his village.
He and Lindsay got along quite well and he remembers him fondly. Later in his life, Hamish was the Patron of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society, the sponsors of the Lonach Highland Games held each year in Strathdon every August. He was also Chieftain of the Clan, the Forbes of Newe. He passed away in 2007 but Lindsay had never seen his gravestone.
As I wandered about the churchyard looking at the names on various stones, I happened upon this crypt and took a look inside.
Upon discovering whose family this crypt was for, I called out to Lindsay who was across the churchyard looking at other stones. “Hey, Lindsay, look who I found? You’re going to want to see this one.” Much to Lindsay’s surprise and delight, was the burial stone of his dear friend Hamish. “I was going to go across the street to the newer cemetery to see if I could find his stone, but look here, you’ve already solved the mystery. Thank you!”
Since I have ancestral ties to the Forbes in my family tree, Lindsay and I wonder if I possibly could be connected and related to Hamish somehow… and interesting thought. Perhaps I’ll investigate it one day…
As we headed back down the hill to the main road from the church, I saw this sign that is quite common on Scottish roadways. “I just have to get a picture of this sign,” I exclaimed as I stopped the car .to photograph it. I think this is the cutest road sign.
We continued on our way through the Cairngorms until we passed Corgarff Castle on the left. Corgarff served as a garrison of the Red Coats during the ’45 Jacobite Rising.
The road after Corgarff climbs very steeply once you pass the ‘snow’ gates up onto the moor with a 20% grade. Soon thereafter, there is a wonderful viewpoint I always enjoy stopping at. It affords wonderful views and has a very interesting carved stone on all four sides to ponder.
The purposely drilled holes in the stones offer a certain viewpoint when you get up close and peek through. Quite interesting…
You can also see Corgarff Castle off in the distance just above the treeline on the right-hand side of the picture below and in the direction that we came.
Lindsay and I both enjoyed the views from here.
The road continues upward until you reach the pass at Lecht where the Lecht Ski area is located, (below) and then heads back downhill through the moor and canyons until you reach the village of Tomintoul.
When we reached the village of Tomintoul, we decided to stop for another break and have some lunch. We looked about at the various eatery options and finally decided on the Clockhouse on the corner.
Inside was cozy with a warm feeling…
We got a table and started checking out the menu for the choices available…
Lindsay decided on his favorite standby and I opted for the “Special of the Day” – Seafood chowder with a Smoked Salmon sandwich on brown bread.
The Clockhouse also has a Guinness World Record specimen – the biggest bottle of Single Malt Scotch Whiskey!
After that satisfying and yummy lunch break, we continued on our way north to Lossiemouth, following the Spey River and passing through various villages like Aberlour along the way.
Here’s a couple of videos of part of the drive as we drove through Aberlour and beyond, passing the world-famous makers of Shortbread along the way.
Not long afterward we were driving into Lossiemouth, our destination…
Soon after we arrived at our B&B for the night, “Skerry Brae,” right along the northern coast! What an ideal location!
We headed inside, checked out the place, and checked into our room on the second floor.
Oh my goodness! What a great view we had from our window!
Soon we were back downstairs, sitting outside on the deck with a drink in hand, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and views!
It didn’t take us long to head down to the beach below…exploring further!
Lindsay decided to sit on some rocks while I took a long walk along the water’s edge toward the lighthouse and back.
Skerry Brae B&B was just what we needed. What a great find!
A little later I drove Lindsay down the road to get a closer look at the lighthouse. Then we drove back down towards the harbor we had passed earlier and I got some pictures of some more beaches across from the harbor before heading back for dinner at the B&B and calling it day as we watched the sunset from our room with a view.
We also briefly visited the Maritime Museum in the harbor right at closing time. My camera was dead by then, however, so I didn’t take any pictures. It’s just as well because the next day we visited Elgin Cathedral and Spynie Palace nearby and I took a WHOLE bunch of pictures; but that’s another story, for another time.
Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for fun road trips across the countryside with my cousin (and best bud) Lindsay, exploring the roads less traveled. He’s a great traveling companion and we have so much fun together!