Monday, September 23, 2013

Exploring Scotland - Aberdeen and Loch Ness

In my last post, I talked about some of my adventures around Scotland with my parents - specifically, around Dundee, the town in which I attend university. Today I'm going to share our trip to Aberdeen, Inverness, and the iconic Scottish landmark Loch Ness.

We'll begin in Aberdeen. We travelled by train up the east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Aberdeen. The train trip took us through rolling countryside and along the sea cliffs, through the town of Stonehaven, and further north until we reached Scotland's third largest city. Aberdeen is well known for its granite buildings - there was a granite quarry nearby and so all of the buildings were made of the same type of stone. It gives the city a gorgeous uniform view, in addition to making it the most radioactive city in Scotland due to the large amount of natural radiation found in granite.

Some of the iconic grey buildings of Aberdeen.

Beautiful graveyard in downtown Aberdeen

In Aberdeen, we were met and shown around the city by a good friend of Roy and mine, Michael. He took us through the Union Terrace Garden, along the main streets, past iconic buildings such as Marischal College, and through an ancient and surprisingly peaceful (almost cheery) graveyard.

After wandering through the city, we stopped for lunch at Slain's Castle. This quirky and fun eatery was a huge hit - designed on the outside to look like an imposing castle from a horror film, inside it is full of lots of film tropes such as trick bookcases leading to the bathrooms and fun "evil castle" decor.

Slain's Castle, an awesome restaurant in downtown Aberdeen 

After lunch, we headed back to Michael's for a lovely evening with his family. We went to bed early, since the next day was our day trip to Inverness and Loch Ness.

In retrospect, we really should have spent more than a day up in Inverness. We barely got to see the city at all, and we could have spent even longer on the Loch than we did. But it was still an awesome experience and was definitely worth the trip.

As I mentioned, we only really passed through Inverness on our way to the Loch. However, the city was a lovely one - smaller than Dundee, with more quaint architectural style. It immediately struck me as the kind of place I would like to retire - and apparently that's a popular sentiment, as it's an extremely fast growing retirement destination. Before we headed up to the northern city, we were told "The best English is spoken in Inverness." I was skeptical based on my previous experience with the sometimes gruff Scottish accent, but was immediately proved wrong by the beautiful, lilting accent of the Inverness locals.

For our exploration of the Loch, we decided to go on a boat cruise with a bundled trip to Castle Urquhart. The trip was absolutely lovely and a ton of fun. Thankfully the weather cooperated - while not completely clear and sunny, it didn't rain on us except for a light dusting which resulted in a lovely rainbow over the Loch.

The boat trip on the Loch was truly lovely

The boat cruised from a small harbour out to a dock next to the ruins of an ancient castle - Castle Urquhart. Until this point, I'd only been inside one castle, that being Glamis, which was much newer. My gamer nerd self was delighted to explore ancient ruins - this was what I imagined when I thought of visiting Scotland years ago. Unfortunately, while Urquhart was interesting and steeped in history, I couldn't help but feel that the ruins seemed a bit... fake. Yes these were ancient ruins, but they were clearly restored and worked to allow the thousands of tourists visiting each year not to injure themselves or break things. Everything seemed to have bits of cement holding them together, and the tumbled rocks weren't tumbled at all, but were in fact carefully designed and cemented in place. Don't get me wrong though - the scene of the ruined castle from the top of the tower was still impressive, even if the climb to get up there was harrowing!

Urquhart Castle was a beautiful sight, despite seeming a bit fake.

The Aberdeen / Loch Ness trip was a ton of fun, and we got to see ancient parts of Scotland and learn the histories of some of the most iconic Scottish landmarks. My favorite part of the trip, however, was still to come - if I was disappointed by Urquhart's perceived "fakeness", I was blown away by the mysticism of Dunnotter Castle. Look forward to my next post, which will cover that and more!

1 comment:

  1. It would really be great to experience canoeing and kayaking in corryvreckan this time. Before, I have gotten the chance to take corryvreckan cruising that was really amazing. I love the scenery.