I’m going to bypass – for now - some of the outings Colin and I have done in Yorkshire, to tell you about what we’ve been doing more recently, Colin would have been coming up to Braemar, with Mark, Janet and Ian for two weeks of walking in the hills around Deeside, until that plan was stymied by his heart bypass operation. However two weeks after the op, the doctors allowed the visit as long as he didn’t start to try and climb mountains just yet! He had a hospital appointment on the Monday, and he thought he had another on the Thursday so we planned to come up at the end of the week. As it turned out he got the date of the Thursday appointment wrong – it’s still to come – so we left on Thursday, stayed overnight in Peebles and drove the rest of the way to Deeside on Friday.
It was a good run up to Deeside, taking a break at Glenshee for a snack at the ski centre. One of the five ski lifts was working and a few people were game for a trip up the mountain.
When I was a youngster there was a piece of road on the way up to Deeside called the Devil’s Elbow. It was a nasty piece of road especially in winter with its double hairpin bend, but the road was rerouted and straightened in the late 1960s. I can’t have been driving for long, but I drove up and round those bends a couple of times! 1 in 3 it was! I hadn’t realised until I saw this little film that the Elbow is still there! I must look out for it next time I go up that way.
So, on to Braemar – not a big village, but one I think is quite attractive. isn’t this garden with its lupins beautiful! I love the colour of the stone the houses are built of – pink or grey granite with varying shades of colour.
In the village centre is the large hotel The Fife Arms, right of photo, looking directly across the road to the modern Visitor Centre, incorporating the Scottish Tourist Board (now known as Visit Scotland) and some Scottish Gift shops, set round a courtyard where pipe bands and Highland dancing often takes place in the summer. We watched the Blairgowrie and Rattray Pipe Band marching and playing through the village on their way to the Junior Highland Games, one day, though we didn’t go to the Games ourselves.
Next day, while the others took to the hills, Colin and I drove further along the Aberdeen road to a small town which I remember from holidays in my childhood. Snow bears we built one early Easter, and the smell of newly baked bread from the baker’s, are my outstanding memories. Ballater ( BAL a ter ) is full of interesting shops and cafes, some of which display the crest By appointment to her Majesty, or the Prince of Wales, who have a holiday home called Balmoral Castle just a few miles away.
(I have to say that in the summer these tiny mosquito type insects are a darned nuisance! More so than in the lowlands, though we have them too. They bite…. and while most people just get tiny itchy lumps that are mildly irritating for a day or two, I get large red itchy lumps that you could fry an egg on they are so inflamed and hot, and a week later they are still red and itchy unless I take antihistamine.) That’s the royal appointment crest high on the wall between the Chinese Restaurant on the left and the baker’s shop on the right. Which does it belong to, I wonder?! (It’s actually the baker’s, according to the wee plaque beneath the crest!)
Well, we wandered round, taking photographs (me) and shopping for supper that night (him, though I got the shopping bags to carry, ‘cos I’m the gopher!)
The war memorial in grey granite stands in the square, and we found this second hand bookshop nearby. I bought an early copy of the magazine Tocher, meaning a dowry in Scots. It is published regularly by the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and contain songs, stories, and information in Scots, Gaelic and English, our dowry, our heritage! The copy I bought had a few Gaelic stories in it, translated into English too, which I thought might be useful in helping me learn the language.
Back we came to Braemar and the cabin we were staying in. That was the only walking we did that day, but having found our bearings, we made up for it in the next few days - but more of that next time.
Talk again soon.