Country & Castles

Today was the perfect opportunity to visit the country and castles, it was gorgeous weather! Not a drop of rain all day. We slept in then started off with a late lunch in Banchory at a cute little restaurant inside the local inn, The Douglas Arms. Jesse tried his first steak and ale pie on this trip (he's had them many times before in England) and an Orkney Red ale, a brew he'd been searching for since he arrived in Aberdeen. Banchory is a quaint, small town--probably established in the late 1700s--and consists of one main street surrounded by quiet homes and apartments. It's absolutely beautiful because it's in the middle of the country and simple with a few main stores, restaurants and gift shops in its town center. Lovely, like the Scots say!

Then we headed over to Crathes Castle. From Wikipedia: "Crathes Castle is a 16th century castle near Banchory in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. This harled castle was built by the Burnetts of Leys and was held in that family for almost 400 years. The castle and grounds are presently owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland and are open to the public. Crathes sits on land given as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. In the 14th and 15th century the Burnett of Leys built a fortress of timbers on an island they made in the middle of a nearby bog. This method of fortiification, known as a crannog, was common in the Late Middle Ages. Construction of the current tower house of Crathes Castle was begun in 1553 but delayed several times during its construction due to political problems during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. It was completed in 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys, and an additional wing added in 18th century. Alexander Burnett, who completed the construction of Crathes, began a new project, the early 17th century reconstruction of nearby Muchalls Castle. That endeavour was completed by his son, Sir Thomas Burnett. Crathes Castle served as the ancestral seat of the Burnetts of Leys until gifted to the National Trust for Scotland by the 13th Baronet of Leys, Sir James Burnett in 1951. A fire damaged portions of the castle (in particular the Queen Anne wing) in 1966. Another historically important structure in this region linked to the Burnett of Leys family is Monboddo House."

It wasn't quite as visually impressive as I was hoping for, apparently not all castles are grand and scheming and boast of visits by William Wallace! Some are more like estates, and this one was refurbished in what seemed to be a very Victorian style. But the weather has been so pretty the past few days that the pictures came out crystal clear with gorgeous blue skies. There was about four acres of walled gardens, manicured and colorful with fresh blooms and loads of fall foliage. It's everywhere here! The leaves started changing drastically in the past two weeks and it's so beautiful right now. I just hope the winter doesn't seem too bare and dreary after all this vibrant color and lush green.

After seeing enough of the gardens and grounds, we drove the short 15 or so miles to Stonehaven to show Jesse and Leigh Ann our favorite castle, Dunnottar castle. It's so picturesque, on it's own cliff of an island surrounded by crested white waves, deep blue ocean and rolling hills. We already had a ton of pictures but I had to post this one, the simple black and white makes it look so regal.


Here's the harbour at Stonehaven, it reminds me of New England...

Now we're back at the flat and just enjoyed some queso and a little football. The Guinness stew is nearly done and smells delicious! We've eaten several meals by candlelight in the flat, enjoying a very relaxed and casual schedule. I think Jesse and Leigh Ann have enjoyed the peace and quite and a break from their three precious (and energetic) kiddos!

The weather is still getting colder and it's getting dark much earlier now. Mike and I both feel like it should be Christmas soon, we've started seeing a few Christmas decorations out, which makes me all excited. I brought some of our Texas Christmas ornaments to hang on a small tree for our flat and plan to make a Christmas wreath as well once all the decor is out for sale. We'll be celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas in our Aberdeen flat this year! Luckily, my mom is mailing me canned green beans and French's French Fried Onions so I can make green bean casserole and we found stuffing at Asda a few weeks ago. Plus, we still have Halloween to experience here... not sure yet if we'll dress up or not, although quite a few of the bars seem to be hosting special costumed events for the holiday so I'm sure we'll partake somewhere.

For now, we're soaking up our time with my brother and his wife. Tomorrow we'll go to a nearby church then lunch on Union Street and check out the William Wallace statue, theatre, a little more shopping, etc. Their trip will end all too soon, it's been so nice to have guests!

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