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Friday, 20 January 2023

Guest Blog...Travel Adventures in Aberdeenshire

An inspiring guest blog from the_scotland_diaries (Instagram)

Anne, Gary and Erin are wonderful regular guests at Dalriada and it's always a pleasure having them staying with us. Read Anne's blog about their recent stay

At the beginning of this year Gary, Erin and I traveled north to another one of my favorite parts of Scotland— the Aberdeenshire Coast. 

We were excited to bring in the New Year in a very unique way in the tiny fishing village of Stonehaven. More on that in a bit. 

We stayed just up the hill from Stonehaven at a favorite accommodation Dalriada Lodges — a wonderfully appointed bolthole with views of the North Sea, village below and the infamous Dunnottar Castle down the coast. We love it here and highly recommend! 

Speaking of Dunnottar — we took advantage of our first full — sort-of-sunny day — making the walk from the village then along the top of the sea cliffs to the war memorial and on to the glorious Dunnottar — looking as imposing and regal as ever beneath the darkening skies. 

Anne and Gary at Dunnottar Castle Stonehaven

Anne and Gary at Dunnottar Castle Stonehaven

Breathtaking — especially the near VERTICAL climb from the village — cardio workout X10! But beyond the war memorial, the path evens out and the views are truly stunning and about as Scotland-esque as you’ll ever get! 

We also decided to spend a couple of days exploring Aberdeen itself — known as the “Granite City.” Gary spent many years living and working in Aberdeen so he was the perfect guide. 

I am not generally a city explorer but found Aberdeen and its many diverse neighborhoods so interesting. We explored a few local parks, crossed over an ancient “humpy” bridge, walked the hallowed halls of old Aberdeen University and spent a bit of time exploring the seaside promenade. And, of course, had to visit the local Stevenson designed lighthouse — Girdle Ness — sitting sentinel on the cliffs beside the harbour. 

Erin at Duthie Park Aberdeen

Erin at Duthie Park Aberdeen

But, the Big Event and the reason for our trip north was to witness the spectacle that is the The Stonehaven Fireballs

On New Year’s Eve we piled on our warmest clothes, parked up about a mile from town and walked into the village — passing the local pipe band warming up for the night’s entertainment. 

We found a spot on the high street against the barrier and just along from the clock tower. We were two hours away from midnight but felt smug we had found such a prime spot against the barrier for the show to follow. Now to wait… 

What is the Stonehaven Fireballs Festival you ask?

They have been swinging fireballs in Stonehaven since the mid 19th century. A tradition beloved by local men and women — and now the thousands that come every year to witness the fiery spectacle. 

Cancelled the last two years due to the virus-that-shall-not-be-named, some 15,000 people were expected to flood the high street this night to see a return of this exciting New Year ritual. 

The fireball swingers are local men and women from teenagers to retirees — sometimes whole families getting in on the toasty tradition.

The fireballs are cages made of fencing wire and filled with rags, twigs, cardboard, coal, pine cones, old sweaters and whatever combustibles are available all doused in paraffin. 

It takes a bit of strength and dexterity to swing these things as they weigh anywhere between 10 to 20 pounds. 

At the stroke of midnight the swingers begin their march down the high street swinging their homemade lit balls around over the top of their head. They walk the length of the street not once but 4 times before flinging the balls into the harbour to the loud cheers and jeers of the crowd. 

 

Anne and Gary at Stonehaven Fireballs 2023

Anne and Gary at Stonehaven Fireballs 2023

It was wild to say the least — and I dodged more than a couple of the flaming spheres as they got quite close to my heid! Health and Safety, I think, not generally a priority on this night. 

We smelled like flame and smoke as we decided to leave our coveted position along the barrier after 15 minutes or so of watching the walkers and made a dash for the harbour to observe the chucking and dousing of the balls and have a good view of the fireworks overhead.   

It truly was something I’ve never seen before and perhaps will never see again. Such a fun atmosphere— buoyant even — and joyful. Many theories about why and how this custom got started. One I think I’ll subscribe to that it’s meant to symbolize the burning off of any bad spirits of the past year — therefore providing a clean slate start to the new year. Yep. That’s what I think!  

#BucketList for sure and I am SO glad we braved the freezing temps and risk to life and limb to witness this pageant of the flame!  

To cap off our week we had a birthday to celebrate — MINE! Gary’s darling parents made the trip over the hill from Aviemore to join us — at the lovely 13th century Meldrum House Country Hotel for a sumptuous lunch.  

We booked into one of their cosy domes for a fab 3-course Dome Dining experience surrounded by acres of beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside and the local golf course. Erin joined us in the dog friendly dome as we raised our glasses to toast another trip around the sun for me.  

 
Anne and Gary at Dome Dining at Meldrum Country House

Anne and Gary at Dome Dining at Meldrum Country House

As usual, at the end of our week it was hard to drag ourselves away from our comfie retreat at Dalriada and Stonehaven but it was a great way to start the new year and more travel adventures for 2023! 

Aberdeenshire has my heart. Don’t miss this part of the country. It’s a treat!