We arrived at our beautiful cottage, just outside Aberlour. To our surprise it was a complete home, so cosy and inviting. Hay bundles lay in the field over the road, we had a beautiful farmer’s kitchen and there were apples hanging off the trees. This was our sort of place.
We were in Aberlour partly because it was a good base to explore the area but also because years ago Rob’s ancestors owned the local pub here – the Mash Tun. 20 years ago Rob came here to have a drink – but it was closed – so now was a chance to have a beer in the ‘family’ pub! It used to be called the station pub as it was next to the old station. But it was closed! Luckily we were in no rush so we went across the park to observe the raging torrent that is the River Spey (and has tea coloured water – which comes out all of the taps too – makes for an unusual bath!) and walk across the bridge. We stopped at the old station which is now an information centre and we got talking to the local lady who is in charge – she was a wealth of information and she used to be a teacher in Scotland so it was fun swapping stories.
Finally they were open for lunch (2 hours only) so we hastily grabbed a seat. We enjoyed a beautiful ruby ale and some chips and a lovely pear crumble. It was a unique experience!
Our next stop was the whisky distillery. This part of the world is famous for its whiskey and so we thought we would have a look at the local brew. The centre was very cosy and they even gave us a free book on the area. We bought a bottle to sample (we don’t usually drink whisky) and quite enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the little walk alongside the distillery that went into the forest. There was a beautiful waterfall at the end of it and Kim also spotted a deer and her faun across the water!
Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
Our first day trip was to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. Here there is a heard of reindeer that you can walk amongst and feed. However tours are only twice a day and you have to get there an hour early to get a ticket as it is first in best dressed. We arrived and got our tickets and directions to a nearby carpark where the tour started. As we waited we spotted a red squirrel but it was too quick to get a photo of. It was quite cold now and we enjoyed the short guided walk past the river, up the hill and across the fields (Rob was helping to carry the feed for the reindeer).
And suddenly they were around us. We were in a group of about 60 people and the two guides gave us a little bit of feed and we could then roam around and hand feed the reindeer. We were particularly intrigued by the range of colours and the velvet on their antlers that was in various stages of growth. Some of the deer were comfortable enough to be touched (although you weren’t to approach them from the front or touch their faces). This was an activity we both really enjoyed. It was rutting season which is when the males fight (although they had deliberately restricted the males in the enclosure that we were in) and the deers begin to lose the velvet from their antlers. They live for about 13 years and they don’t cull them in this area. The conditions here are close to Sweden (sub arctic climate)
But as we walked back, our animal encounters had not yet finished. We could hear a plaintive howling cry and we saw some people on the bridge watching something in the water – we saw this little creature battling against the current. We think it is a water vole.
On our drive back to Aberlour we stopped and admired the many lakes (which people obviously camped at) and stopped at a centre for red squirrels and ospreys (but it was closed and we couldn’t find the squirrels). We did however spot some cute little fairy villages they had made and we heard a weird tapping noise – and looked up to find a woodpecker! A ruined castle guarded by a highland cow finished our day off nicely.
Our next day trip was out to the seaside. We drove north to Spey Bay. On the way we spotted a dramatic bridge (the Craighellachie). We stopped briefly to have a look before the rain set in.
We had heard that Spey Bay was a good spot for seeing dolphins and seals. We saw some dolphin sculptures in the car park which was a good sign. We popped in to the visitor’s centre and then went for a short walk alongside the river which was fun. The beach itself was covered in shale – very tricky to walk across. We enjoyed spotting another family of swans in the water. There were some interesting driftwood sculptures to see as well. Although we didn’t spot any dolphins, we did spot a seal who popped its head out of the water as we were leaving.
On the way back to Aberlour we made a brief detour to the town of Elgin – we were keen to glimpse the cathedral ruins – these were particularly impressive. We also wandered through the Biblical Gardens that were next to it – some nice flowers in here.