Scottish Coastal trip + Orkney Island - Part 1

Travel the Scottish Coast and Orkney Islands in 2012

Aberdeen beach front on a sunny day 
This blog is posted in three parts, each post is one week apart.

I have spent a fair amount of time in Aberdeen, Scotland, as my husband works in the marine oil industry. We make a point of seeing as much of Scotland as we can, while we can. We did the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides a while back and I just assumed Orkney would be another similar Scottish island. Since there are around 800 Scottish islands and I couldn't possibly see them all, Orkney was not on my list.

Silver granite housing in Old Aberdeen
Not so, said an Orcadian lady I had been running with. Orkney was previously a Scandinavian island so their language and heritage is vastly different from the Gallic speaking western islands. And Orkney has more neolithic sites and archeology than they have the manpower or means to un-earth. I had some friends coming over to visit so decided to take us on a round road trip of northern Scotland. We headed up the eastern coast, popped across to Orkney and came back down the west coast. We had 9 days to pack in as much as we could. It's fair to say they came back having seem a lot.

Hill O Many Stanes Caithness
Pennan village
Since we rented an apartment in Aberdeen we kicked off with two days exploring the city. Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland and is the oil capital of Europe. It's called the Silver City or the Granite City due to the silver grey granite they use in their buildings. It frequently rains in Aberdeen and on grey drizzly days the sparkly silver flecks are not visible. But we got lucky and had two glorious days of sunshine when we did our city tour and the buildings were magnificent. I found a great DIY walking tour of the city in - Fodor's Scotland. You can also get a print-out of a walking tour from the Aberdeen tourism office in Union Street near Castlegate. NB - the tourism office opens later than the retail shops, closes for lunch and they finish up earlier too.

We walked past some of the key attractions - find them - here - and - here. We also took in a few free museums. I like freebies. Entry fees can quickly add up to a large sum of money. Free museums include Provost Skene's House, Maritime Museum and the Tolbooth. (check visit times for Tolbooth as they are not always open) I also wanted us to visit Old Aberdeen, which be warned, is a bit of a walk from the city centre if you're not fit.

Kings College Aberdeen
To make the most of your sight-seeing in Aberdeen, walk along the beach esplanade toward the Brig O Balgownie on the River Don. Then walk through the beautifully laid out Seaton Park, through Cruickshank Botanic Gardens toward Old Aberdeen. If it's too much of a walk, you can always catch a bus to and from this area. (Tourist info have bus details) Make sure you see St Machar's Cathedral dating back to 15th and 16th century and King's College. There are also lovely old houses which give an olde worlde feel to the area.

Seaton Park Aberdeen
I wouldn't call Aberdeen a shopping city but you can find famous high fashion brands like Topshop, River Island, H and M and Zara in one of the three main shopping malls namely - Union SquareBon Accord and St Nicholas and also Trinity Centre. Bargain hunters will love the charity shops in Union Street and Rosemount Viaduct as well as Primark where you can get just about anything at rock bottom prices. Further along Union street is - Cruise, a designer emporium for those with cash to burn.

On Day Three I collected our car from - Enterprise Car Hire. Just a note, they drive on the left in the UK and best prices for petrol are at the major supermarkets such as Tesco, ASDA or Morrisons. You are unlikely to find supermarkets in the small villages so make sure you top up when you pass through a bigger town.

Old Aberdeen
We drove up the east coast following Scotland's National Tourist Routes. They have brown road signs which mark the scenic drives. The east coastline is rugged and you will encounter ruins, castles and fishing villages along the way. We stopped at Slains Castle in Cruden Bay, a ruin reputed to be the inspiration for Bram stoker's Dracula. And we drove into Pennan, a village where the movie - Local Hero - was filmed.

There are loads of pre-historic monuments and sites in the north east of Scotland. If time permits you may want to view Longman Hill near Banff Bay and Hill O Many Stanes in Caithness just south of Wick which we saw on the second day of our road trip.

Slains Castle near Cruden Bay
Next week in - Part 2 - I talk about the rest of the road trip up the east coast, the ferry to Orkney and Orkney Islands.

Old fishing cottages near Aberdeen beachfront
Go to - My Holidays and Trips - at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on - this link.

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