Rather have a Panda than a Prince!

Back in 2008, a group of us ventured into the central deserts of Western Australia for a couple of weeks of solitude! Well not quite solitude as Jen and I were providing the support vehicles for 3 friends on KTM motorbikes as they bonded with each other (boys will be boys) in a ride of a thousand or more ass smacking KM’s on rough tracks!

Anyway, one of those intrepid adventurers was John who at the time was living in Norway and made the journey to Western Australia for a Desert experience.  Now with a family and responsibility, John finds himself just south of Aberdeen with his lovely wife Katharine and daughters Sophie and Abigail.

John and Family

John and Family

Having stayed in contact, John had kindly issued us with an invitation before our journey began to stay a few days should we find ourselves in his neck of the woods.

So with a few days before our auspicious reunion, we had a pleasant enough amount of time to make our way south. Loch Ness was loaded into the Sat-Nav and soon enough the tourist mecca filled our windscreen, well the parts of it that you could see between the tour buses is probably more accurate!

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Box ticked is all I have to say regarding our quick visit before we departed for Inverness. From our campsite we were afforded a lovely walk along the River Ness crossing small footbridges between islands separating the fast flowing and very dark tannin filled waters. Really nice!

Many of the RV Parks often have a small food van or mobile fish and chippy on site over the weekends and there was one such van on this site at Inverness.  The lure of a bacon buttie was too great and whilst awaiting our order we were discussing the general feeling in Scotland regarding their English overlords! The chef told us that at the time Princess Kate was in labour with her first royal baby, there was also an expectant Scottish public awaiting the arrival of a baby Panda at Edinburgh Zoo. There happened to be a soccer match taking place between Scotland and England and those chants that we hear coming from bellowing fans at such events was on this occasion heard to announce “We’d rather have a Panda than a Prince” I guess that makes some of the feeling quite clear.

Whisky, an acquired taste! And I acquired it a very long time ago.

So finding yourself in Scotland is like walking across the Middle East to the Waling Wall, assuming you’re into such things!

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

Refurbishing Bourbon Barrels for Whisky Production

However, due to the taxation of alcohol in the UK, Scotch Whisky is certainly not cheaper in Scotland and in fact is far cheaper in Germany and even Australia. Similar to winery cellar door sales in Margaret River, neither is it a better deal at the distillery. However a tour and tasting had to be on the agenda. We chose Glenlivet as it’s one of the oldest whisky distillers and we enjoyed a great afternoon observing single malt production and most definitely tasting some of their finest. First £200 bottle I’ve ever tasted and probably the last also, sadly!

Departing the distillery, I was definitely unable to operate vehicles or any other form of machinery.  Luckily, I had a chauffeur.

A drive through Aberdeen on our way to Stonehaven and we found ourselves in the entrance of a lovely home overlooking the North Sea!  Purchased as a run down ruin a few years ago, John and Katharine certainly had vision, saving the dilapidated house on site and finishing the whole build off to a level that might even cause Kevin McLeod to struggle for words!

BBQ Scottish Style

BBQ Scottish Style

Lovely house by the Sea

Lovely house by the Sea

Dunnotar Castle

Dunnotar Castle

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Sculpture in Stonehaven

Out of our 3m square box and into our digs, we considered squatting and forcing John to seek legal advice in order to extricate us!

Whilst Jen had been researching her family history, she had found that just south of Stonehaven is the tiny village of Caterline, the base for a coast guard station in which one of her distant relatives served as a boatman. Ever efficient, John treated us to a tour of the area and, would you believe, managed to jag Jen a ride on a replica of one of the boats used by the coastguard back in the day.

Caterline Coast Guard

Caterline Coast Guard

We departed this Oasis with hopes of returning to once again enjoy some Scottish hospitality and as it turns out, there may be another chapter involving John, as it would seem that we might be meeting up again in Utah next year! – More to come on that front hopefully.

St Andrews was our next stop and it started with an impromptu drive (legally) across the 18th hole of the Old Course! Stunning place full of tourists trying to battle the age old first world problem of deciding whether the golf equipment they intend to purchase should have St Andrews emblazoned on it or not? Aside from golf, it is a pretty place to visit and the ruins of the cathedral are quite amazing.

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Where Kate Met Wills (Apparently)

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Edinburgh! a must visit destination, and beautiful! The photos will suffice, I’m sure.

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Blackfriars Bobby

Blackfriars Bobby

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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Back in England and we headed along the “Castle Coast” to Cragside Estate, listed in our National Trust Guide and sounding interesting.   Wow!! What an amazing Estate. It was the first house in the Victorian era to have hydroelectric power.  This provided lighting and many other modern conveniences that we take for granted. The whole estate was absolutely amazing and worth a Google if your bored!

Preston Mill

Preston Mill

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

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Interesting Geology

Interesting Geology

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

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Cragside Estate

Cragside Estate

We were approaching a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the ferry prices were timed to increase with the extra demand, not to mention the battle that lay ahead in finding the ever necessary RV park for the long weekend.  Knowing full well they are all filled to capacity with sun seeking Brits we decided enough was enough and managed to beat the price rise and depart Old Blighty for Holland just in time to avoid the holiday madness!

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Jam Packed

Jam Packed

Cheers for now – another update soon!

One thought on “Rather have a Panda than a Prince!

  1. Bec

    When I’m ‘bored’ i might ‘ Google” the rest of this story that ended so abruptly ……

    Reply

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