Aberdeen to Inverness – The Start of The NC500 Route

Aberdeen was great location for a few nights over New Year. We had grand ideas that it would be somewhere lively for Hogmanay; however we were disappointed to learn that in Scotland they still had covid restrictions meaning that there were not allowed to be any pubs open late and only selected venues were operating a late licence. The ironic thing was England had lifted these restrictions and many Scots were heading to the likes of Newcastle for a good New Year knees up! Not to be deterred we decided to stick it out and see how we got on!

As is always the way the first thing in Aberdeen Nigel wanted to see was the football stadium 😕Pittodrie Stadium, Home to Aberdeen FC. It was the team managed by Alex Ferguson prior to him moving to Man U and he led them to European glory winning both the Cup Winners Cup and the European Super Cup. All in all under his management the team won 11 trophies in 8 years. As stadiums go…i’ve seen better!

Now from my point of view we headed on to something wayyy more exciting; Newburgh Seal Beach which was just 20 minutes out of the City Centre. We don’t always have luck spotting wildlife and it can always be a little hit and miss however we were in luck! There were loads of seals there just barking, basking on the banks and bathing in the water – we loved watching them.

After dragging ourselves away we headed back to the car back into Aberdeen to Old Aberdeen. Now admittedly the sat nav didn’t do us huge favours here and we ended up round some one way streets so I have no doubt we missed the highlights; however we liked what we did manage to see. If anyone knows where we actually were we would love to know!

Time to head back into Aberdeen Town Centre; we hadn’t explored much of it and time was cracking on for that first New Year drink! We managed to successfully find the Christmas festivities in the town centre and Nigel had even found a statue of the famous footballer Denis Law. We had a cheeky mulled wine at the Christmas Market before heading back to have a wee rest prior to seeing New Year in (if we could find anywhere open!).

After a wee rest we headed out around 9pm to see what we could find happening. We headed to The Stag pub which was a short walk away from our hotel, passing quite a lot of closed or restricted entry places on the way. We had no problem getting in however and settled down for a couple of drinks. It wasn’t the busiest but given the covid restrictions we weren’t overly suprised and the night was still young!

Its not the first time we have had quiet New Year so we had no grand plans; however Nigel was keen to hear bagpipes especially as it was Hogmanay; the chances were looking slim though it was not too busy, not too happening, and we thought we would be heading home soon for an early one. All of a sudden the doors open and in walked a whole pipe band!

After that we were more enthused to continue to try and find more entertainment; we found out the Pipe Band were continuing their journey down the road to different venues and so followed them to see where they (and we!) ended up next. Our final destination for the evening was the OGV Taproom. We were able to make a quick reservation online and even better they had a dj, cocktails and a bit more of an atmosphere! We stayed there and watched New Year in with another lone Piper and enjoyed a couple more drinks before heading home.

Auld Lang Syne

New Years Day was a chilled one for us and we took it easy given the night before but by the 2nd we were ready to start moving on. It was time to leave Aberdeen and head north! First stop was Cransdale Vantage Point in the fishing village of Collieston around 30 mins north of Aberdeen. If rugged coastlines and rough seas are your thing this is the place to be! It was a magical place; however parking was a bit of a nightmare so we didn’t stay overly long.

Next stop on our trip was to Peterhead to see the Buchan Ness Lighthouse. Established in 1827 the lighthouse had a lucky escape during the second world war after a mine washed ashore and exploded 50 yards from it. Luckily the only damage was 3 cracked lantern panes and 12 other windows broke; the structure was still intact. The lighthouse was unfortunately closed to visitors but we still made friends with some locals.

On to the RSPB property Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve. This place is highly recommended but as per our luck it was just closing! We didn’t really get to see anything which was a shame because it is Britain’s largest dune loch and home to many migratory birds including a fifth of the worlds pink footed geese; maybe next time! Instead headed on onto Aberdour Beach which is famous for its limestone caves. These we did get to see!

Pennan, our next stop, is famous for being the setting of the 1980’s film Local Hero, A Scottish Comedy film starring  Peter RiegertDenis LawsonFulton Mackay and Burt Lancaster. We actually watched the film after our visit here as we were interested in how much it had changed. It is a quaint little fishing village and a chilled out stop on our route.

Next up was Troup Head nature reserve which offers amazing cliff top views as well as a variety of bird life. If you are lucky (and we unfortunately weren’t) you can also see minke whales, dolphins and porpoises here. The views were amazing and for the bird spotters amongst you this is the place to be.

Heading down the hill to Crovie and Gardenstown we checked out the beach and the harbour. It was a peaceful and quiet place; apparently the northern lights can be quite regularly spotted from here during the winter months.

It was now starting to get dark and we had fit a lot into a day; we headed straight for Inverness in the hope we could book into the same b&b we stayed at when the first lockdown was announced, The Kemps Guesthouse. Unfortunately they were fully booked so we instead opted for the Jury’s Inn in the town centre. A distance covered today of 173 mile, 5 hours 48 minutes driving – phew but we had an amazing day. We were excited for the next leg of our adventures heading to John O’Groats.

Carol & Nigel xx

New Year 2021 into January 2022

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