Tuesday 12 May 2015

The Cairngorms - Arrival & Visiting Ballater

Day 1 - Friday
It was time for our second cottage holiday cottage jaunt of the year and it did actually feel very close to our first one!!  This time we were venturing much further afield, to a little place just outside of Ballater on Royal Deeside in The Cairngorms. 

We were staying in Corndavon Cottage, on the Garnshiel Lodge Estate, which looked like a green wooden shack, with a very tartan carpet, just down the road from Balmoral and, as visiting Balmoral is high on my list of 50 things to do before I am 60, a visit was definitely on the cards. 

We had a really good journey up, setting off at about 9.30am, early for us, and arriving at about 5.00pm, with a stop off at Tebay services for lunch. The M6 behaved itself remarkably well for a Friday before a Bank Holiday. 

Upon arrival we were met with a flurry of snow and greeted by Archie, who was very friendly and welcoming. We intrepidly entered our home for the coming week and were pleasantly surprised. It was warm and cosy, deceptively spacious and just as described. You can read more about our thoughts on, what turned out to be one of the nicest cottages we've stayed in, here.

We were soon unpacked and tucked in for the night with an M&S chuck it in the oven tea, which was just the job. 

One thing we did do was to move the sofas around a bit in the lounge, just make it a bit cosier. We were very pleasantly surprised to find not a spot of dust or dirt under either.  I wish I could say that about my own sofa.  We were very impressed. The same can be said for the rest of the cottage, it was spotless. 

Day 2 - Saturday 
After our usual very slow start we arose to a fairly grey and misty day, though Martin did assure me that it had looked lovely at 5.00am, Fortunately he'd taken photos to prove it as I never would have believed it. 
Day 2 - 5.00am

Day 2 - 10.00am
After our long journey yesterday we didn't fancy going very far afield so decided to head in to Ballater for the afternoon, which is just about 6 miles down the road. 
15 Years of Geocaching

As the weekend was a special one in the Geocaching calendar, 15 years since Geocaching started, and there was special 'virtual souvenir' to be had, purely by completing a cache, we decided to pick up a few on our way into Ballater.

We started out just literally a few 100 yards from our cottage with a cache at a local point of interest known as the 'the Ringing Stone'. Archie had already mentioned this to us so we would have gone to have a look anyway, so the fact that there was a cache in the vicinity was definitely a bonus. 

The Ringing Stone or 'Stain' as Archie pronounced it is a fairly large boulder which makes an odd hollow sound if you throw a small pebble or stone at it. It is surrounded by small stones and pebbles where people have tested this out. We were no different and spent a good few minutes dropping the biggest stones we could find on it and it is true, it did make a hollow ringing sound. 

From there we traversed the very strangely steep and high Garnshiel Bridge to make our way into Ballater. Archie had another tale to tell about the bridge in that, years ago, when buses had no hydraulic suspension, passengers had to disembark to give the buses sufficient ground clearance to make it over the bridge. He says that some playful bus drivers taking tours over the bridge still make passengers get off and it's a real treat to watch. 
Once in Ballater we parked up in the town square and had a good wander around. We have never seen so many 'By Royal Appointment' crests. After our visit we found out that, according to Discoverroyaldeeside.com the town has more of these warrants – a mark of excellence first used in Tudor times but popularised by Queen Victoria to certify high quality – than any other comparable place in the world.
We had a look at the old Royal Station, though we didn't partake of the visitor centre that commemorates Queen Victoria’s visits, with the unique Royal waiting room and a replica of the Royal train carriage used by Victoria in 1869. 
As it was such a dull day we didn't stay too long in Ballater and were soon heading back to Corndavon where a Butter Lamb Curry was bubbling away in the slow cooker. No prizes for guessing who got that on the go. 

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