The last couple of years have been varied holidays and I’ve managed to keep lovely diaries of what we got up to (see 2019 and 2020) as well as during our break in Whitby in May 2021. This summer though, I didn’t try to do that. I didn’t want to be blogging in the evenings instead of spending quality time with my parents and in laws. Instead, I posted on Instagram each day and decided to share the highlights of our holiday in each location now.
So here’s the best of our Scotland holiday 2021.
The River Dee
My in laws live a stone’s throw (well, not any attempt of mine but I’m sure someone’s would make it) from the River Dee and it’s fantastic. I ran along it every day that we were there. We took the boys to see the Falls of Feugh and for a lovely long bike ride along the old railway line from Banchory to the Milton of Crathes.
It must be wonderful living so close to this beautiful spot – not just for the sights of the water and the birds that live around it, we spotted herons and lots of gulls. The borders of the river are full of ferns, rosebay willow herb, wild raspberries, sandy beaches, and little inlets – which can sometimes pose a challenge to the runner:
MacDuff Marine Aquarium
We took a lovely long drive up the coast to MacDuff from East of Aberdeen, dropping in on some seals in Newburgh and flying kites on the beach, ending up in the MacDuff Marine Aquarium. The aquarium was absolutely fantastic. The COVID rules at the time in Scotland meant that we all had to wear masks, kids included, which just felt a little different. But that didn’t stop us enjoying the exhibits, it was all so well presented and we could even handle some of the creatures. OK so that children declined that opportunity, but I bravely touched the star fish and managed not to drown my smart watch in the tank.
The staff were beyond brilliant too – the boys had questions about the mermaids purses and the fantastic lady explained what they were and how they behaved in a clear, accessible way so that the boys understood but didn’t feel they were being spoken down to. Their favourite creatures were the dog fish, far and away.
Cairnie Fruit Farm
Himself’s sister lives in Glasgow, so just like in 2020, we arranged to spend a day with her and the boys’ cousins at Cairnie fruit farm. Just like last year, they had an awesome time with all four kids running around together and generally messing about.
After spending most of the day going round and round the go kart track, the boys were absolutely filthy by the end of it. The maize maze was a hit too and himself and I enjoyed a little break from the chaos to pick some raspberries. While we grabbed a coffee before heading home, I picked up some delicious chocolates for my mum’s birthday in the farm shop and very bravely resisted indulging in the gorgeous Emma Bridgewater bits and pieces.
It was one of those days that just seemed full, you know? Full of all the good things.
Tubing in Alford
My lovely in laws kindly sent himself and me off on our own for a night in a hotel while they looked after the boys. By coincidence that was also the only day that we could book for the boys to go tubing at Alford Ski Centre. So the grandparents ended up taking their boisterous grandchildren. I was a bit unsure whether large boy would enjoy it because he can sometimes be rather cautious, or more than cautious, trying new physical adventures. As it was, he loved it and went down the big slopes. Small boy had fabulous time too but stuck to the smaller slope having found some other kids to play with.
We only ate out a couple of times during our week in the Aberdeen area, but wow we picked some wonderful places to eat!
The Dolphin Cafe in Peterhead
We were heading towards the aquarium in MacDuff and needed lunch, as we came through Peterhead we found a MacDonald’s on the outskirts (or it might have been KFC) as a back up plan. We parked in the town centre but it was really quiet on a Sunday and himself was sure we wouldn’t find anywhere to eat. However, TripAdvisor to the rescue and we tracked down the Dolphin Cafe nestled between the harbour master’s office and the life boat station, right in the docks. It was surprisingly busy but they had a table and it was well worth the tramp around the town hunting for it.
Himself had scampi, the boys shared a jumbo adult portion of scampi and I had a mixed platter with a fishcake, some scampi and a piece of haddock. It was awesome and the latte on the side was more than decent too.
On our date day, himself and I set off on a drive up towards Ballater planning to find some lunch on the way. We stumbled across this sweet little cafe by the road and we were pleasantly surprised. Courie Courie is a tiny little cafe with a beautiful garden adorned with Tibetan prayer flags, umbrellas for shade and comfy seats. Their menu is brief but wholesome and delicious – who knew a simple cheese and pickle sandwich could be that amazing? The venison salami was a revelation and it was all I could do to keep himself from having a honey bun for pudding.
Well this was the proper treat meal of our trip. Himself and I dining alone? walking home? unencumbered by children or a car? Cocktails and wine you say? Oh yes please and thank you very much!
The in laws had told us the Clachan Grill had a very good reputation locally and himself managed to book a table well in advance (while we were eating we saw several groups try to get a table on the off-chance, but with no luck). It’s a proper traditional Scottish restaurant, doubtless partly trading on the tourists with their staff in kilts and the capercaillies on the walls, but that doesn’t detract from the good food. Himself enjoyed a couple of cocktails while I had some lovely rose (not quite cold enough, but an ice cube quickly sorted that out). We had a full three course meal and it was sumptuous without being overly large, so we felt full but not bursting by the end.
Of course himself had duck and I had fish. Quelle surprise!
What have been your favourite moments or activities of summer 2021?