This was the first night we'd actually all slept in the campervan, an "in at the deep end" situation as we were hundreds of miles from home and about to embark on two weeks where we intended to be staying every night in it. Thankfully it couldn't have gone better. The children slept through the whole night, as did Jane and I, the rock and roll bed with our double sleeping bag proving to be a very warm and cosy place to sleep.
We awoke to people arriving in their cars, chatting then moving off. We presumed dog walkers, runners, or similar. As it turns out a decent proportion were there to go swimming in the decidedly chilly waters of the reservoir 🤷🏻♂️😂
We took a walk down to watch and work up an appetite for breakfast. On the way we saw a sign that said it was 4 miles to "Nine Mile Burn", we imagined this must be some epic running route and talked of how pre-children we'd have been totally up for going and running up something like that. I mean we still are, it's the children that would be hard to persuade 😂
Breakfast eaten, van repacked we headed off to Edinburgh to see the zoo, incidentally the hilliest zoo I think I've ever been to. Although I don't remember when we visited several years ago for the fringe there being many large flat areas that would house a zoo they seem to have picked the steepest part of the city to place the zoo. Covid precautions have closed off many parts but we still had a very enjoyable time, the children loved seeing all the animals but it's funny to see the effect the fences have. Robert talked a big game with the pelicans until we went through the walkthrough and there was one standing on the path in front of us, to be fair if I was faced with a bird larger than me I'd be a little nervous too.
After lunch it was time to head up to Westhill, outside Aberdeen, for a couple of nights with my brother and his family. We were lucky that they had recently moved as their previous house was inside Aberdeen city and so we'd have been unable to see them due to the mini lockdown going on.
Sunday morning we took a drive down to Ythan estuary beach to see seals. At the car park our van barely squeaked under the height barrier, literally millimetres below, at which point it occurred to me that since having the roof fitted I hadn't actually measured how tall the van was 🤔
Escaping the car park in one piece we headed off to see Craigievar castle, a pink castle that is apparently the inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella's castle. It's a shame that the interior of the castle is closed (🤬 coronavirus) as the ceilings and artwork inside are meant to be stunning. A good reason to maybe return one day.
Heading back towards Westhill it wasn't much further to go and visit another castle, Drum castle. Originally built in the 13th century it's one of the three oldest tower houses in Scotland (the original post is to the right side in the picture below). You can't see from the photo but when they were looking the old tower house with the new they also put in a large window on one side, to do so though required cutting through 7 feet of stone!
Monday was a delightful day just spending time with the children and family and while they slept in the afternoon I did a little repacking and still forget to swap the windscreen wipers over. The plan was to head up to Littlemill after dinner while the kids slept. It's a wood outside Inverness where Forestry and Land Scotland are trying out a scheme allowing campervan and motor homes to park for free overnight in their car parks.
Leaving Aberdeen we asked Google to plan our route to Littlemill and duly set off. Down many small single track roads, up and down 20% gradient hills and through the Cairngorms and Aviemore. Along this route Jane and I discussed how it was crazy that this was the way between Aberdeen and Inverness and how must they move large loads between the two? Blissfully unaware that the A96 in fact exists and links the two cities 🤦🏻♂️ thanks Google.
It was fascinating though to drive that route and it really gives a perspective to remote places. By that I don't just mean empty places in the middle of no where, I've driven through plenty of those before in several countries. No, remote here being places where there is habitation but no other house in sight. You drive past and see the lights on, their bins have been put out at the side of the road to be collected and can't help but think of the route those bin men must have to come all the way out here to this one house. The cost of running electric and telephone services to these houses. How the people who live there must live their lives. There's no popping down to the shop because you need something for tea tonight, no walking over to your friends house. Maybe it's because I have children that the idea of living like that seems so bleak and horrifying, that I feel they need the social interaction I don't know they'd get if I lived somewhere like that. Maybe it'd be perfectly fine and it's just a fear of the unknown. Either way I'm glad we took the route we did.