I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle
originally uploaded by Darren Foreman

Tuesday was easy. We had it all planned out. Go see a castle, come back, go walking, eat.

After a breakfast -- comprised of cereal, then scrambled eggs on toast cooked by the German Apprentice (still learning English, but apparently understood enough to know what 'salmonella' meant, judging by the instruction from the kitchen we could overhear) -- we went back to the bus station to get our transport to Crathes Castle. About 2/3rds of the way back towards Aberdeen, this castle had two distinct advantages: it was supposed to be really good, and the bus stopped right at the gate to the grounds.

Brushing aside the incomprehensible footwear compliments I received from an alighting passenger, we boarded and, as far as the driver was concerned, Ruth asked for two returns to Crathie [mumble]. Crathie is a village in the opposite direction, which the bus does indeed go through. After some confusion while the driver figured out that he wasn't driving towards Crathie, I realised the error and said "Crathes". Mix-up cleared up, the driver then sold us a ticket which doesn't exist -- a pass that would let us travel all over the place on that route, and other Stagecoach services. The exact kind of ticket we'd asked about on Monday at Aberdeen bus station and had been told doesn't fucking exist. In fact this was a better ticket -- cheaper than two individual passes, he sold us a family ticket that costs 19 quid for two adults and up to 2 children. Zero is, after all, "up to 2".

Crathes was great. It's the ancestral home of the Burnett family, and beyond that I don't have much to say about it that wouldn't just be a rubbish description of the pictures I took. That said I do of course need to boast about having seen and photographed a real live red squirrel. :-D Upon my return to London, and mostly as a result for having twittered about it, I learnt that this was actually something people were jealous of. Coo!

Actually, one notable thing which you won't find by reading up on the history of Crathes elsewhere is the sales technique of the woman in the ticket office and merchandise shop. We just wanted day tickets, but she virtually imprisoned us in her attempt to get us to join the National Trust. Despite our perfectly reasonable, logical, and sensible objections, she nonetheless kept insisting that we should pay the 50-odd quid fee to get a year's free entry to, and apparently of even more use, free car parking at NT properties.

We have no car, and Ruth is spending 10 of the following 12 weeks out of the country. Even when we said this, and promised to join the Trust upon her return -- so that we got a full year's benefit of our membership, of course -- she still insisted that joining NOW NOW NOW was the best thing we could do. Her basis for this argument was some utter nonsense about winter being a shit time anyway, and buying it now we'd already have our membership ready for when the weather starts clearing up.

That woman was fucking mad. We managed to pay just for day tickets, and escaped. As I said, the castle was great, and the gardens were too.

Back at the gate for the bus, we found ourselves unfortunately in the midst of the 2 hours where there are no buses to Ballater. So instead we had to go to Banchory, a fairly nondescript town about halfway between Aberdeen and our real destination. Had a pint, went in WH Smiths, got the next bus. It was a pikey shitty bus only really suitable for journeys of, say, 600 yards, rather than 20-odd miles. Cramped, uncomfortable, it was the first long road trip of the whole holiday that made Ruth feel ill :-( plus any chance of walking had disappeared. Ah well.

Back at the B&B we needed to get changed and find somewhere to eat. What with Tuesday not being Monday we'd envisaged having our pick of the restaurants in Ballater; and being Ruth's birthday she wasn't to pay a single penny towards it. The only thing required was that she needed to pick and book the place, since I hate using the phone.

She phoned every restaurant in Ballater, including the hotel bar at the Hilton Craigendarroch (oh how I wish we'd known about that place earlier! think of the loyalty points, the room upgrade, ... sigh), and found nothing. Zip. Nada. FUCK. ALL. Every restaruant in Ballater was full, apparently, and we had to go further afield. Specifically we found a table at a place in Aboyne, probably the nearest village once again back in the direction of Aberdeen. Called the Candlestick Maker, it was virtually empty and we learnt it was shutting within the next month. In fact the day we were there was the last Tuesday they were opening at all, as for some reason that was the weekday they were taking off in their last month. Who knows why?

As it happens the food and service were both spot on. Shame. I guess if Ballater's food really is that good then they just couldn't deal with the competition...

The bus timetable was very kind to us, either side of the meal. It dropped us off 10 minutes before our booking, and picked us up 10 miutes after we left. Who needs cabs? Even the local scrotes weren't particularly scrotal.

I did think I'd blog about Wednesday separately, but to be frank I can't be bothered. There wasn't much to it: bus to Aberdeen, lunch, train to Dyce, cab to the airport, couple of hours in the lounge, flight to T5, bus home, hello cats, hello Wooj.

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