Forests, Castles, and the Granite City

DSCF0386This past Saturday, we took a day trip to Dunfermline Abbey and Place, Crathes Castle, and Aberdeen. It was easily the most beautiful day we have had in Scotland so far. Dunfermline Abbey is a hop-skip-and-a-jump across the sea to Fife, and it was a beautiful drive over the sea to get there. The Abbey was built in 1128, and Robert the Bruce was buried here. We arrived at 9 am and went for a walk in the forest surrounding the estate, which was like walking into a fairytale. DSCF0374

Everything was green, shimmering from the dew, and so calm. Thanks to the sun, it was also not that cold, so the weather could not have been more perfect for exploring what was my first Scottish forest.

I found a moss-covered gazebo that looked several hundred years old, and got my boots delightfully muddy while exploring it. Other than few birds, we didn’t see any wildlife. The walk through the forest was just the breath of fresh air that I needed after a week of miserable weather.

We spent about an hour wandering through the forest, stumbled upon a park, and traipsed along the moss and mud-covered steps (slipping a few times on our way down to a waterfall). After grabbing some tea at a nearby coffee shop, we geared up for the 3 hour journey North to Aberdeen.

Robert the Bruce had his title etched into the top of Dunfermline Abbey.

Robert the Bruce had his title etched into the top of Dunfermline Abbey.

First stop, Crathes Castle, a 16th century castle. Robert the Bruce (who keeps popping up!) gave the castle to the family, so they were very loyal supporters of his. There was even a hunting horn hanging in the living room that he gave to the family. Since I’ve never seen Braveheart, this doesn’t mean much to me…but all the Braveheart fans were very excited.

The Estate was huge, and reminded me of a (much older and bigger) Vermont. Lots of families and dog-walking couples were visiting, and it was really sweet to see toddlers and puppies running around the Castle gardens. I grabbed some more tea (getting over a cold), took a stroll around the gardens, and then popped inside the Castle.

In the front of Crathes Castle...looks like something Rapunzel would walk out of.

In the front of Crathes Castle…looks like something Rapunzel would walk out of.

It’s very weird that, at this point, castles have become pretty normal. Walking around Edinburgh, it’s easy to become immune to how magnificent the old castles are. We all agreed that even though it was pretty, Crathes Castle wasn’t very exciting. The most exciting thing about Crathes was probably that it was intact and that we could enjoy it in the sunlight. From the outside, it looks small, but the inside was actually pretty big. We had to take a quick tour to make it back to the bus for Aberdeen.

Crathes Castle in the sunlight!

Crathes Castle in the sunlight!

Thanks to a few stragglers, our bus was late, so we only had 45 minutes to scramble through the “Granite City” for food. After I had bought my bus ticket, many locals warned me that Aberdeen was a pretty ugly city when compared to Edinburgh. Made entirely of Granite, the city sparkles in the sun (sort of ironic). Unfortunately, we arrived around 3:30, so the sun was already setting. Otherwise, it felt very industrial and modern. It seemed like every storefront alternated between being a kebab place and a gentleman’s club. Our group ran around for a bit until finding a nice bar for lunch, grabbed chocolate muffins, and then headed back to the bus for another 3 hour ride home. After spending most of the day in the “country,” I wasn’t disappointed at our lack of time in the city of Aberdeen.

When Edinburgh came into sight, I realized that I was so happy to see the city. (Especially after seeing Aberdeen). Edinburgh feels so much like home now–I have my daily routines, my favorite cafes and pubs, and finally feel used to the crazy weather. When I left my flat this morning, it was in a snowy blizzard; now, at around 2 pm, the sun is shining brightly over the Meadows, a huge park in the middle of the city. Edinburgh doesn’t feel like a foreign place anymore. It feels comfortable, normal, and home-y.

I read online that homesickness can set in again around the third week, and I definitely felt some twinges of it. (The nasty weather and my cold did not help much). I actually started to feel a little bored, too. Then I realized…that I can actually experience boredom in Edinburgh means that I’m not just a visitor anymore, passing through temporarily. And there’s still so much more to explore!

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Dunfermline Place.

Dunfermline Place.

A park at Dunfermline Place.

A park at Dunfermline Place.

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