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Scotland -- castles, cows and more

Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 01:05 PM
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Scotland -- castles, cows and more

I've managed to finish my blog entry for our week long holiday in Scotland. We stayed in Crail near St Andrews and later in Aboyne along the Royal Deeside. I'll come back with some Trip Report info later, but for now enjoy the blog:

http://ukfrey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06...-cows-and.html

(sorry, it's a long one)
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Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 04:04 PM
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Indy Dad - great blog! Can't wait for the full trip report.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 05:09 PM
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I haven't finished it yet - got as far as Dunnottar, will finish in a bit. Wonderful report!

The yellow thorny plant is Gorse (There is lots on the old course too)

Super that you got out to the Isle of May - it is one of my favorite things in that part of the country. Too bad about the rough seas/

I've been out there when it was so choppy the boat barely land, and when it was so calm the sea was mirror smooth. I can tell you which one I prefer And no, you definitely DO NOT want to be below decks/inside. Are you all now puffin fans? They are the cutest thing ever (well, after baby Heilan Coos)
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Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 05:13 PM
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Re Edzell - I've been there a few times but the gardens were only really in bloom once. It is an absolute riot of color when all the bedding boxes in the walls are in bloom w/ annuals, and the roses in the center are blooming. The roses alternate red and white.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 09:40 PM
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For those that don't know, we are a family of four (DD14, DS11) living in Derby as American ex-pats. This is our third (and final) year here.

I had grand visions of jet-setting across the continent to "see Europe" while we were here. We've done some of that, but we've also taken in a lot more of the UK than I had preconceived.

We enjoy history, scenery, food and being outdoors. Scotland is a natural fit and we've fallen in love. This is our third trip overall. The other two are here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-with-kids.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm

Our trip last year was just about perfect (Trossachs, Syke, etc.) and it was tempting to do something similar. However, after consulting the great and the good here we opted to try something different on the eastern side.

We had another wonderful time though I'd have to say we preferred last year's trip a tad more -- good to explore and see the country though. I look forward to more opportunities to fill in the blanks, though it will likely be less frequently from the States.

We drove 1250 miles for the trip. It's about 5 hours from Derby to Edinburgh for reference so most of you wouldn't have that leg to worry about.

We based for 4 nights in Crail near St Andrews and 3 nights in Aboyne along Royal Deeside (and the Castle Trail)

Itinerary:

Day 0: Drive from Derby to Crail with stops at Rosslyn Chapel and Linlithgow Palace

http://www.rosslynchapel.org.uk/

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/...?PropID=PL_199

Day 1: Sunday at St Andrews -- West Sands, castle, cathedral, Himalayas putting green, walking the Old Course

Day 2: Anstruther -- Farm cheese stop, Fisheries Museuem, boat ride to Isle of May on Anstruther Pleasure Cruises

http://www.standrewscheese.co.uk/

http://www.scotfishmuseum.org/

http://www.isleofmayferry.com/

Day 3: Scone Palace and Falkland Palace plus time in Crail

http://www.scone-palace.co.uk/

http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Falkland-Palace-Garden/

Day 4: Drive to Aboyne with stops in Glamis Castle, Edzell Castle and Dunnottar Castle

http://www.glamis-castle.co.uk/

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/...20And%20Garden

http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/

Day 5: Castle Trail -- Crathes, Drum, Fraser and Craigievar

http://www.aberdeen-grampian.com/are...tle-trail.aspx

Day 6: walking Bennachie

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/aberd...ennachie.shtml

Day 7: long drive home with a stop in Housesteads (Hadrian's Wall)

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/d...hadrians-wall/

more later
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 04:10 AM
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Thanks once again for sharing this adventure. Well done!
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 04:24 AM
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Indy Dad, thanks for yet another great family trip. Kids are growing up, eh? What great memories they will have.

We were also there in late May some years back, Burrrr, it was cold! But beautiful. Out innkeeper in Pitlockery said, "You folks should really come back when we put out all our plantings." I guess he meant hanging baskets.

Looks as if you folks had very good weather, all things considered. Again, thanks for sharing….
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 07:57 AM
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Where'd did you stay for the Castle tour part of your trip. Still puzzling that one out! BUt I've still got lots of time to puzzle and puzzle and puzzle some more!
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Old Jun 4th, 2013, 04:01 PM
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Indydad,

Thanks for another wonderful trip report. We love seeing the puffins at the zoo. Really nice to see pictures of them in the wild. Great pictures as always.
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Old Jun 5th, 2013, 11:41 AM
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Thanks for the comments.

Lodging:

We've been on enough trips now to know what we like. For non-city stays we prefer "Guest Houses" that have 5-7 rooms so that you don't feel like you are staying in their house but it's still fairly personable.

For Crail, we stayed in the Hazelton Guest House:

http://www.thehazelton.co.uk/ £80/room/nt

It pretty much fit the description above perfectly. As family rooms are hard to find, we ended up with two rooms on the 1st floor. Ours was a slightly bigger (superior?) room that worked well given we were there for 4 nights.

The hosts were friendly and helpful but not overly so. Breakfast was good and filling but not too large (which some can be).

Our shower wasn't great (low pressure) but that's not atypical. Overall, highly recommended.

Crail provided a nice, relaxing base. It's not much for restaurants but nice to walk around and easy to park. I wondered if staying in St Andrews would have been better (we spent a day there and ate another meal there) but we liked the village feel of Crail.

In Aboyne we stayed at the Heugh Head Mill B&B:

http://heughheadmill.co.uk/ £70/room/nt.

This is a newly converted property so everything was new, shiny, and clean. It was kinda neat to stay in an old mill but it had a few quirks (like a sloping ceiling).

We had two rooms in the upstairs wing. There was a nice common area that we used to watch the Britain's Got Talent semi-finals (my lone vice, I'm sure I've lost all credibility). We actually had a nice conversation with another family from Liverpool who frequently watched as well.

More variety at breakfast. Good, but not great quality. Servings were very big and we ended up taking the leftover cold meats, cheeses and croissants that we were served for snacks later. Breakfast was at a communal table which is a little cozy for me (but we were earlier than most anyway).

Showers were powerful! Wifi worked in our room but not the kids, so we had lots of company.

Hosts were very nice and tried hard but it did feel like we were staying in their home (which we were). Still recommended.

Banchory may been a touch more convenient for what we ended up doing, but not by much. Aboyne and Banchory are about 20-25 minutes apart. Braemar is another 20 minutes or so in the opposite direction and would be a better base for the Cairngorms but not the castle trail in my opinion (though you could do it).

My first choice was Tor na Collie but they were booked up for a wedding well in advance. This worked out fine though.
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Old Jun 5th, 2013, 11:50 AM
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Thank you for sharing this information and experiences. I loved reading it!
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Old Jun 5th, 2013, 03:47 PM
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Super trip report as always! Your last one is largely the inspiration for the scotland portion of our trip (we are in the airport waiting to board as we speak-yay!). I'll try to do a TR that lives up to yours and maybe help someone plan an equally great trip!
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Old Jun 5th, 2013, 06:24 PM
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Have a GREAT trip rmmom . . .
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Old Jun 5th, 2013, 08:54 PM
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Enjoy your trim rmmom!
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Old Jun 6th, 2013, 11:11 AM
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Restaurants Pt 1

We like to eat! Not necessarily fancy or formal, but good food. But like everyone else, we like a good value as well.

We've found that our on-the-spot evaluation skills are lacking so I try to do some research before we go. In fact, I actually like to book most places if possible (arriving early isn't usually a problem if necessary). I know that isn't some/most people's style, but it works for us.

So, here's were we ended up for dinner. Prices are for 4 with a round of drinks and usually a few starters or a few desserts. Kids sometimes eat off the children's menu and others not. For photos, refer to the blog linked above.

Crail area

Pittenweem Inn
http://pittenweeminn.co.uk/
£82

Thought we might hit this on the way in but we made better time than I thought so we checked in first. Pittenweem is two villages south of Crail (i.e. south of Anstruther). This was a pleasant surprise. Typical "inn" feel with a handful of families at the first sitting (i.e. not very fancy). Chef would mingle to check up on things. Food was quite good.

Little Italy
St Andrews
<no web site>
£81

Highly rated little Italian place in St Andrews that does require booking. It was good but not best I've ever had territory. We had a mixture of pizza and pasta and a full round of starters.

The Waterfront
Anstruther
http://www.anstruther-waterfront.co.uk/
£60

Not many options in Anstruther but we decided to try this after our boat trip (not exactly in our best condition for eating). Service was outstanding -- really on top of things. Food was okay, but not great. I was expecting a little better being on the water and all. My fish was slightly undercooked. No one did cartwheels.

Doll's House
St Andrews
http://www.dollshouse-restaurant.co.uk/
£63

Plenty more options in St Andrews and that's where we returned. The Doll's House was a nice find and a great bargain since we snuck in before 7 pm. DW was able to eat off the early bird menu and both kids ate off the children's menu. I had the duck special and it was quite good.

So, we'd recommend all but the Waterfront with nods to the Pittenweem Inn and Doll's House.
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Old Jun 6th, 2013, 03:32 PM
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Great trip report on your blog. Some places we will be visiting on our trip. We head over next Thursday. thanks for sharing.
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Old Jun 6th, 2013, 10:01 PM
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Well done on the trip report and your blog overall.

The prickly bushes with yellow flowers, revealed as gorse, did you smell the yellow flowers?

They smell of…. coconut believe it or not.
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Old Jun 7th, 2013, 03:16 AM
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Thanks Indy Dad for all the great info. Very helpful, and sounds like great fun. And you have a beautiful family!
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Old Jun 7th, 2013, 11:30 PM
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@sofarsogood -- thanks for the compliment. Unfortunately, I did not stop to smell the gorse! I'll have to try the next time.
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Old Jun 7th, 2013, 11:57 PM
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Restaurants Pt 2

Aboyne area

The Boat Inn
http://www.theboatinnaboyne.co.uk/?Restaurant
£49

Believe it or not, this was the only night we didn't pre-book. I didn't know if we would want to eat in Stonehaven after Dunnottar, in Banchory on the way or something close to the B&B. We chose the latter due to the fact that we made it to Aboyne before dinner time.

This definitely has the pub/inn kinda feel. A little dark and a somewhat limited menu. (We aren't really pub grub folks. They had a little more than standard fare but not quite the same variety/level that we had elsewhere.)

Service was very good and friendly. Our meals were okay but nothing really special. I had a steak pie of sorts. DW had a lasagna that was a little disappointing (the one I make is better ). Hard to complain given the price, but we generally like to aim a little higher.

The Loch Kinord Hotel Restaurant
http://www.lochkinord.com/
£68

This turned out to be a nice recovery! I had booked The Victoria based on reviews. However when we showed up they were closed. I dug out my phone and realized that they had called and left a message that they had to unexpectedly close due to staff illness/bereavement. Oh well, at least they called.

So, we decided to try the Loch Kinord which was close by and had made my options list.

It was between 6 and 7 but no one was yet eating. The friendly bar man switched hats and opened up the restaurant. He actually didn't have any tables for 4 set up as I don't guess they get too many families.

The decor was a little stereotypical and a little dark and stuffy so we were a little concerned. However the food was really good. We all like our meals. I had the lamb if I recall. Worked out well.

The White Cottage
http://www.whitecottage.eu/
£92

We purposely saved our best (and most expensive) meal for last. The White Cottage is a really lovely bistro with great food. We arrived earlier than our reservation and were given the best table out in the conservatory. The room was nicely decorated with flowering plants and had a pleasing color scheme. The rain was coming down fairly hard and it made for a soothing ambiance.

This small bistro is run by a single proprietor (John). Since he manned the front desk, took orders and delivered most of the food, the service was "relaxed" but that was fine for this evening.

The food was really good with fresh, local ingredients. Melon & sherbet for the kids' starters; crab pate (spread) for us. DW had the Thai Green Curry (hot!) and I had the seafood pie (a first for me). Kids each had a different chicken dish. One dessert to share to top it off. Great evening.
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