… was the quote in the guest book when Wes and I went hiking around Loch Muick. This weekend, I went to visit both Wes and Stacey who’d moved to Aberdeen about six months ago, some good friends from back home in Australia. I’d spent all of about two hours in Aberdeen before, on a previous trip to the Speyside region, though this time I was looking forward to just hanging out, and seeing the local countryside for a bit of a winter walk.
Everyone I’d talked to about going hiking in north Scotland at this of year thought I was mad given the combination of short hours of sunlight, and the cold and wet weather conditions making it all the more difficult. I had come prepared though with thermals, over trousers and new hiking boots and we certainly needed it. Luckily we had absolutely amazing weather for pretty much most of the weekend, with blazing blue skies full of sunshine (at least when the sun was up) and the only chill coming from the winds.
Wes had Friday off so we planned out our hike Thursday night, looking for one that would take around four hours as we had to account for the small number of sunlight hours. We settled for a lakeside hike instead of a peak, as Loch Muick was something that he was yet to do and I was happy to see a loch (i.e. lake) in great weather. It also helped that it was within reasonable driving distance. We stopped in Ballater on the way to grab some sandwiches for lunch, and with a backpack full of supplies we started out on the trek.
Bitterly cold doesn’t really begin to describe the first parts of our walk with a strong gust flowing over the loch that continually cut into our face. Despite the many layers we both wore, it still proved to be a shock to the system. The wind eventually died down by the time that we hit the lakeside, and we got to enjoy the amazing scenery. We managed to see some amazing scenery including some awesome frozen puddles, a gushing waterfall, some deer, and what we think was black grouse (it was a black bird with a red beak that looked like the combination between a duck and a chicken). Somehow we also ended up chasing a pheasant on our drive back, and randomly passed a peacock that happened to sit in someone’s backyard. Exhausted, we had a dinner at the Potarch Hotel, carpeted with far too much tartan, but at least had a very warming fireplace to sit by and enjoy dinner.
Stacey joined us on Saturday, and we all celebrated the news of her passing her recent exam that she’d been studying for quite a number of months. We had a lovely day, heading out to places like Stonehaven (which I still can’t pronounce as the locals do), seeing a frosty beach (what the?), and the lovely Dunnottar Castle, that sits alongside the coast on what looks like a donut shaped island. We also ended up having a great dinner at Cafe 52 (with fairly poor service) though a cosy room that fitted us perfectly.
I had a wonderful weekend, and I have to thank Wes and Stacey for being such wonderful hosts, sharing their wonderful lifestyle with me, and giving me a great local tour of the surrounding area. Find the rest of the photos from the weekend here.