We met Nicholas & Veronica in Portugal – they were staying with Gus & Sheila when Steve invited himself round to cook NZ lamb on their BBQ. They live in a village called Auchenblae which is about 20 minutes from Edzell. They invited us for dinner on Thursday night and Veronica cooked up a storm. We started with Paneer (Indian cheese) with a mint yoghurt dressing. This was followed by a lamb curry to die for with all the condiments. Dessert was a delicious apple tart with caramel sauce and ice cream. We were in culinary heaven.
Rachel, Nicholas & Veronica’s daughter and her husband Dougal joined us for dinner. Dougal is a game keeper at Drumtochty Castle just outside Auchenblae. The castle is privately owned and used as a wedding venue – it can accommodate 120 people in the castle and surrounding lodges. They also have a church just down the road that can also be used for the wedding ceremony. After dinner Dougal took us for a drive in his land rover to see the property. They raise deer and pheasants for game shooting.
We drove up into the paddock where all the stags were – I have never seen such antlers – they were quite impressive. Dougal shook the feed bag and they came over to the land rover. We also went up to see the hinds and some bambi.
Afterwards Rachel gave us a tour of the castle. It used to be used as a family home by the guy who currently owns it. It is now a wedding venue and accommodation. They had a wedding party coming in on Friday so the tables were set up and the accommodation all ready – we had a look through some of the rooms including the bride’s quarters. To hire the castle is about GBP15,000 and if you include all the food and accommodation it would set you back about GBP30,000 or NZD59,000.
Drumtochty Castle is a neo-gothic style castellated mansion erected in the year 1812 approximately three kilometres northwest of Auchenblae, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. During the Second World War, Drumtochty Castle was bought by the Norwegian government in exile and used as a boarding school for Norwegian children who were refugees from the German occupation of Norway.
On Friday we went back to Nicholas & Veronica’s – they were taking us on a road trip of the area. First stop was another castle – Dunnottar Castle which is near Stonehaven on the North Sea. It was another beautiful day and the scenery was breathtaking. Dunnottar Castle is actually a ruined medieval fortress. The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century.
We then headed to Aberdeen. Veronica said that Aberdeen is a very grey city and on a bad day seems bleak. Nicknames include the Granite City, the Grey City and the Silver City with the Golden Sands. Aberdonians are also said to be rather glum people never smiling and predicting the worst. The sun was shining so we saw Aberdeen on a good day and I enjoyed the architecture. Aberdeen is the oil capital of Europe since the discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1970’s.
We went down to the port and were wowed by the large supply ships that go out to the oil rigs. Their bows are huge but that is what is required in what can be some very large seas. Apparently it is very expensive for the container ships to come into the port so they dock outside and they have ferries bring the crew ashore or take supplies out. We saw a few ships parked up out on the coast.
We had lunch at a lovely little Chinese restaurant called Zen.
We then headed to Crathes Castle which 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.
We went and had a look around the garden – it was fantastic. They also had some glasshouses which date back to 1896.
Crathes Castle is not to be confused with Crathie Kirk which is a small Church of Scotland parish church in the Scottish village of Crathie, best known for being the regular place of worship of the British Royal Family when they are holidaying at nearby Balmoral Castle.
We then headed back to Auchenblae. The country roads, terrain and villages in Scotland appeal to me – I know we are seeing the countryside in it’s best light with the sunshine but that little village and rural feel is great.
We had a great day out and feel very privileged to have been hosted by Nicholas & Veronica – you just can’t beat that local touch. We look forward to returning the favour in NZ sometime soon : )