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

Monday, September 01, 2008

the Dee after tomorrow

the Dee
the Dee,
originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
It's a bit sad when I make a pun that doesn't actually make any sense, but, meh. I have totally lost my decent-title-writing mojo (if indeed I ever had such a thing). Anyway, about last Monday...

After a considerably calmer breakfast than Sunday (which was a fucking awful zoo-like experience), we checked out from the hotel and headed, via a Diet Coke purchase, to Aberdeen bus station. Everywhere was pretty busy because unlike in England on the same day, it wasn't a public holiday. The buses into Deeside run every 20 minutes, but not the whole way -- the service to Ballater is only hourly.

We'd given ourselves 20 minutes or so to buy a ticket, having researched the night before that a Bluebird Explorer would sort us out. It was only about 0930, and our plan was this: get the bus to Ballater (just under 2 hours), see if the B&B would take our bags, then double back and go to Crathes Castle. Back to Ballater in the afternoon and check in properly, explore, etc.

This plan failed. Immediately. First, we were in the queue for tickets until after 0945, thanks to there being only one person selling them and a couple of very awkward customers ahead of us. When we finally got to the front of the queue the woman said there was no pass she could sell us, and that our best bet was just to buy two singles to Ballater. Oh well. Two singles to Ballater then please...oh. You buy them on the bus. So we queued, and missed the bus, for nothing. Thanks a bunch, Aberdeen bus station! We spent a couple of minutes cursing our lack of foresight -- with hindsight, if we'd come to the bus station the day before, just after booking our B&B, we'd have found this out and not missed the 0945. Bollocks.

... time passes ... Diet Coke ... T3 magazine (load of shite that is) ...

Got the 1045 bus, paying £15 each for period returns to Ballater. It was £12 for a single, and we thought the extra 3 quid was worth it so we could come back on Wednesday, if we wanted (at this point I favoured a cab to the airport).

It fucking tipped it down while we were on the bus. Really bad weather. Things weren't looking good...until we got to Ballater. Off the bus, the sun was out, storm passed. With hindsight, our lack of foresight had turned into a blessing -- if we'd got that 0945 we'd have been utterly pissed on.

Ballater landscape
originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.

When booking the B&B we had discussed with the staff at the tourist information centre that we were using public transport, so they explicitly said they'd book us into somewhere in the centre of Ballater. So, a not-as-short-as-expected walk ensued -- past 2 hotels and a few more B&Bs, next to the caravan park on the edge of town, there we go.

Even after our delay and the walk it was still a bit bloody early, but the people at the B&B were super-friendly and took our bags in, letting us go free, even giving us a recommendation for lunch venue.

Wandering slowly to take in the views all around us, we strolled back to where the bus dropped us off and beyond and found the venue. It was a restaurant in the building where Ballater's own tourist information is; it looked busy, so we went in next door for leaflets instead, and ended up paying a quid to visit the Royal Train Station exhibit/reconstruction. There used to be a train line which terminated in Ballater, for Balmoral castle which is only a couple of miles away. It was built for Queen Victoria and was in use right up to the 1960s, though most of the exhibit is set in the 1800s. There's a replica super-posh-opulent carriage, and some interesting titbits of information. For example, her maj back then didn't trust the accordion-style things which join carriages (and were very very new back then), so instead made the whole train -- which was up to 800ft in length -- stop, whenever she wanted to move to a carriage other than her own. Now that's posh.

By now we were really quite hungry so went for lunch in another restaurant (website fucked at the time of writing), where I had the phenomenally Scottish combo of haggis to eat, Irn Bru to drink. Christ I love haggis, but even I had a bit of a struggle with the quantity they served. Conversation focused mainly on an angry, anti-Royalist Ruth getting constantly pseudo-riled by my consistent and persistent devil's advocacy. Heh.

Lunch over, it was back to the B&B to check-in properly. First impressions of Ballater were, frankly, fucking great.

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