Once upon a time, we used to live in Scotland (back when we were students up in St Andrews and after that working in Edinburgh) and one thing I really wished we’d done more of back then was to explore more of Scotland.
It’s funny but even living in Edinburgh (which is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK), I always kinda took it for granted until we started travelling to other European cities at which point, I realised a lot of what we travelled for (and marvelled at in other places) were right here on our doorstep!
Anyway, fast forward to a few days ago when we hopped aboard a quick Flybe flight from London Heathrow and made our way up to the Scottish city of Aberdeen!
Having been to Aberdeen before, the plan was to head out and explore more of the area with the final day of the trip to be spent up here, and so with that, we made our way over to the nearby town of Stonehaven.
In the past, we’d typically just taken the train from Leuchars (St Andrew’s closest station) or Edinburgh, and headed right up to Aberdeen but suffice to say, there’s only so much you can see on a train zooming past at a 100 miles an hour (you generally don’t get to explore anything other than the destination you’re heading to, really).
This time, we did things slowly, renting a car with Avis, which was absolutely brilliant as it was sooooo easy!
There have been so many other times we’ve hired cars from different places in the past where you’re queuing for ages (kid you not, we’ve queued as much as two hours in the past for some other car hire places) and I was just so pleasantly surprised to be in and out so quickly.
Also, the lady at the desk was really great (she lives local to the area) and recommended some pretty great places in town for food, drinks and even ice cream (which is an all-year-round activity for me – not just in summer).
My favourite part though (after Lloyd went on about how much colder Aberdeen seemed compared to London) was how she ended up getting us a car with heated seats.
I know it might seem like the silliest thing ever to be excited about but I absolutely love them! 😄 I have a great aversion to leather seats and sofa because of how cold (and hence, uncomfortable) they can get in winter so this is a pretty big deal to me. 😄
Car sorted, we headed over to Stonehaven, a place I’d only ever gone past on the train before where we headed to one of the places the Avis lady had recommended for lunch – The Bay Fish & Chips.
The fish and chips totally lived up to the hype, by the way! Definitely worth popping into when you’re in Stonehaven.
One Scottish castle I’d wanted to visit properly (and one you definitely wouldn’t have seen zooming past the town) is Dunnottar castle and so, done with lunch, we down the road to go check out the castle.
Dunnottar castle is an absolute beauty, standing on a hill and overlooking the sea – from which you can see seals, puffins and even the occasional whale going about their daily business. (It was too late in the year for puffins but we did see some seals from the top).
After checking out the view from outside, we made our way inside to explore the castle properly!
Oh, and by the way, these coats were totally unnecessary! By the time we got to the castle, the weather had warmed up considerably and I could very easily have ditched the coat for shirts and shorts.
Rather than bore you with the history behind the castle (which is fascinating but I doubt you’d want a history lesson from me – especially considering I only really know a fraction of it), let me show you around.
If you’re interested in the history, by the way – the official Dunnottar castle website has pretty much everything you need to know.
One thing that totally surprised me about the castle is how huge it all is!
Like every time I thought we were done, we’d find another section we hadn’t come across. It’s definitely worth setting aside a few hours to explore both the outside and inside of Dunnottar castle.
Cathedrals led to dining halls which led to castle bedrooms and secret underground rooms and the whole labyrinth-like castle just continued to unfold until eventually, we decided to call it a day.
With that, we hopped back into our car (I say ‘hop’ but there was a lot of out-of-breath uphill walking involved) and made our way over to Dundee for the evening.
Dundee is a city I’m perhaps more familiar with as it was a favourite haunt of ours back when we used to study in St Andrews. St Andrews is a fairly small town and so if you wanted to do any proper clothes shopping, go to a large cinema, go clubbing or find yourself a 24/7 grocery shop, you’d have to make your way over to Dundee!
As a result, I have so many fond memories of zipping down the slides at the leisure centre in Dundee, bargain hunting at the huge TK Maxx, and, after grabbing a bite to eat, making the most of that student discount at the cinemas here.
Mundane daily stuff really but for some reason, so much more fun as a student (I guess in part because it makes for a great break from our Masters and PhD coursework 😁).
Anyhoo, we checked into the Apex Hotel in Dundee, a spot with a great view over the Quay, before heading down to Gidi Grill – arguably one of the best restaurants in Dundee. The popularity, of course, means that it’s probably worth booking a table in advance! (We didn’t plan this ahead and ended up having to get a takeaway instead).
With that, we decided to call it a night, eager to check out the many ways Dundee has changed since we were last here several years ago. 😀