Tag Archives: Aberdeen

Leg 16 – Aberdeen shop and short leg to Cruden Bay

16 May 2013

Waking up feeling refreshed, I was up surprisingly early for me, by 07.30 because the tent got too hot; a good sign that the weather had improved however Scotland had tricked me before so I decided to reserve judgement. A German couple were up early too in the pitch next to me, and I half expected to see they’d deposited towels on the chairs next to the duck pond to reserve their seating for day. Instead they were practicing their golf swings using pine cones, and drinking freshly brewed coffee that smelt amazing. Unfortunately I don’t do the caffeine thing, so settled for some peppermint tea instead, along with the last of my cheese and oatcakes; must buy some more!

Post breakfast I had a lazy morning sorting out a few bits and pieces, and catching up on some blog entries in the sunshine that looked set to continue to for the day.

It’s worth mentioning how impressed I am to date with my tent, a Hilleburg Akto that’s performing admirably. It’s not only very light and strong, but keeps the wind out, as well as the sometimes driving rain; a blessing since I entered Scotland and this cold north wind sprang up.

Hilleburg Akto

Hilleburg Akto – excuse the mess

It’s a one person tent but surprisingly roomy, with space in the porch area to fit my four panniers and the dry bag that sits on my back rack. There’s enough room inside to spread out a bit, and you could even fit two in at a stretch, should the need arise!

Post blog entries and a smattering of rain, told you the weather was unpredictable, I finished charging up my phone and iPad in the TV room, then packed up. Realised I haven’t watched TV for two weeks now, not missing it, too much other stuff to do.  I noticed at this point my front tyre had a puncture, which was annoying seeing as I had new and tougher tyres on my bike in the form of Schwalbe Marathon Plus’. Upon closer examination it was a weird puncture, the rubber having fatigued and worn through around the valve so nothing to do with the actual tyre, and perhaps a result of yesterday’s rough riding. Inner tube replaced I was ready to go, albeit with very grimy hands I had to scrub; handy I got the puncture in the campsite so had a bathroom to wash up in. I only have one spare tube left now, so ought to buy a couple more, although I have one old one that’s mendable still.

Leaving the campsite about midday, and passing the Old Mill Inn from last night, I pedalled to Aberdeen down the Deeside cycle path, a nice smooth ride of about 7 miles that didn’t take very long. The sun was still out so the day looked promising.

Deeside Holiday Park

Deeside Holiday Park – weather sunny but still unpredictable

I headed to a Cotswold’s shop I’d located earlier via the medium of the web, and picked up some more fuel for my Whisperlite stove. I chatted to the shop staff for a bit, one of whom was a keen cycle tourer. Have to say I’ve always found the Cotswold’s staff really friendly and helpful, and the ones I’ve met so far know there stuff which makes a change. Mind you I should probably be sponsored by them considering the amount of kit I bought from them for this tour. Get a discount through work though, and CTC members also get a discount which is worth remembering.

I proceeded to wheel my fully loaded bike through the mall and grabbed a baguette for lunch, attracting some curious looks. I figured me wheeling my bike through the mall as no different to people pushing their prams, and if anyone wanted to challenge this I would claim I was using my bike as a pram to transport a lobster; Lobster wasn’t  entirely convinced by this plan.

Leaving the mall, which I found entirely too crowded, I took a somewhat circuitous route out of Aberdeen seeing a few sights. It’s a nice city and one I knew nothing about other than it has a large port.

The Gordan Highlanders

The Gordan Highlanders – lobster reckoned he could have them


Giant Lobster invades Aberdeen

Giant Lobster invades Aberdeen 


Me in Aberdeen

Me in Aberdeen

Stopping in Morrisons on the way out I picked up a few extra provisions. I might have bought too much however I wasn’t sure how much I’d need over the next few days, given the apparent sparseness of campsites along the Aberdeenshire coastline. I thought I might have to wild camp so wanted to make sure I had enough carbs – was nearly out of reserve flapjack! So armed with bananas, apples (Pink Ladies no less) more pasta, pasties, pork pie, snickers, pitta bread and other assorted goods, which to my relief all fitted in my panniers – Orltieb panniers just absorb stuff but bike does get heavier, I left Aberdeen in glorious sunshine. I assume you don’t have to toast pitta breads incidentally? Could be tricky on my stove. Also splashed out on some houmous, how very middle class. Forgot to buy oatcakes though, d’oh.

Wanting to avoid the A90 I cycled over the Bridge of Don, and up through the countryside to Potterton, then on to Belheavie, before heading back down to the coast at Balmedie. At that point I had to cycle along a bit of the A90, past a few traffic jams, before turning on to the A975 to Newburgh. Is ‘burgh’ in Scotland pronounced ‘burg’ or ‘borough’? I’ve been going with ‘burg’ but don’t really know! There are a few words I need to look up too which are repeated on signs – Slains, Mains, and Links which I assume must be golf associated. Anyway it was a relief to get off the A90 which was far too busy, even if most Scottish drivers do look out for cyclists.

Bridge of Don

Bridge of Don 


Countryside route out of Aberdeen

Countryside route out of Aberdeen, beautiful weather  


A90 - bit busy but nice route

A90 – bit busy but nice route

The Ridgeback was running well post the morning’s puncture repair and general maintenance – de-griming the gears etc, and my legs were feeling good post the big feed the night before and morning off. I think rubbing in Emu oil to tired muscles is also proving effective – look it up if you don’t believe me. My spirits were generally higher due to the sunshine and nearly no wind for a change, even if it was still chilly.

Nature reserve outside Newburgh 1

Nature reserve outside Newburgh 1


Nature reserve outside Newburgh 2

Nature reserve outside Newburgh 2

On a high I continued on to Collieston, where I stopped for a bit. It’s a lovely village on the coast, again reminding me of Cornwall. I lay in the grass up at the viewpoint, overlooking the bay and harbour, and admired the view. I nearly dozed off it was so peaceful, and for the first time in a few days I felt all the tension leave me, completely relaxing. I felt a real sense of calm descend over me, and would have stayed their for longer hadn’t the chilly breeze finally roused me; I climbed back down from the bluff I’d clambered up to earlier and got back on my bike. (Again reminded me of Cornwall as a kid, and rock hopping about)

Collieston 1

Collieston – beautiful day and village


Collieston, lying in the grass

Collieston, lying in the grass


Collieston, the other way

Collieston, the other way

About halfway out of the village I realised I didn’t have my sunglasses, and must have dropped them when lying in the grass or climbing back down. Stopping suddenly I skidded on a patch of gravel, feet slipped out of cleats and bike went sideways. My shins were duly whacked by my pedals, and leg covered in grease from the chain, great way to shatter the tranquil state I’d achieved earlier. My lower legs are covered in scrapes and bruises from my pedals or cassette hits, resulting from manoeuvring a heavy bike, it tipping over, or my feet slipping out occasionally (must tighten cleats a bit). They look like they’ve ‘been in the wars’ as my mother would say, a few battle scars I reckon. Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me being clumsy? Anyway I went back and found my sunglasses where they’d fallen whilst I was climbing down.

I passed a lot of cattle on my way out of Collieston, bullocks mostly, who seemed very interested in my progress. Passing one field of particularly frisky bovines, I noticed they started following me, slowly at first, before speeding up until the whole herd were steaming along beside me; maybe it was my red panniers. I was very glad of the solid fence between us. Not sure they were being particulary aggressive, maybe just interested, but I wouldn’t have liked them on my side of the fence.

Interested bovines

Interested bovines – they started following me, vigorously

It was a great cycle along to Cruden Bay, another lovely coastal town with a great beach where waves were rolling in; I could have surfed, if I could actually surf that is, and had a surf board which unfortunately wouldn’t really fit on my bike.

Cruden Bay

Cruden Bay


Cruden Bay - drying fishing nets

Cruden Bay – drying fishing nets


Cruden Bay - me

Cruden Bay – me

I left Cruden Bay intending to wild camp, perhaps up at the ruined castle (Slaines), but within minutes I saw a sign to a campsite with a tent symbol on it, bonus, as fancied a hot shower. I cycled with a bloke on a mountain bike for a bit, whose friend took part in the recent Perthshire Etal and came 50th, pretty impressive. The same friend apparently has 8 bikes in his garage; I only have two and was slightly jealous, but sounds expensive.

We parted ways as I reached the campsite, Craighead, a nice surprise considering I wasn’t expecting many campsites out this way, however the owner said there are quite a few on the coast and gave me a map which was helpful. Good campsite, nice and quiet, no wifi but warm showers and only £9.  He let me charge stuff too, lucky considering the lead from my solar panels to my Power Monkey has broken – need to get a replacement in Inverness. Dinner consisted of Morrisons pasties, fruit, biscuits, and a medicinal whiskey as the sun went down.

Aberdeenshire is impressive so far, a hidden gem in my humble opinion. The campsite owner said a lot of tourist traffic gets directed towards Balmoral etc up the A96/A947, rather than around the coast, their loss I reckon, and my gain, with its thus far gentle hills, lovely countryside and picturesque coastal villages – which although lovely could do with a few more pubs. Great to have sunshine too.

Post real morale boosting day, covering 45 miles, I wrapped up warm in my tent and fell soundly asleep pretty quick. Long may the good weather continue.

Gorse in bloom

Gorse in bloom – pass a lot of this


Leg 15 – to Aberdeen

A day of two halves…

15 May 2013

I was up by 06.30, one because I was keen to get to Aberdeen in good time, and two to get out of the farmer’s field. There are a few principles of wild camping, including always leave the area in the same state or better than you found it, don’t overstay your welcome, and ask permission if private land, if possible. It hadn’t been possible late last night however I really don’t think they’d have minded anyway, camped where I was on some rough grass next to an old pile straw/manure!

Wild campsite number 2

Wild campsite number 2 – not as nice as Tentsmuir but served its purpose

As it happened the farmer turned up in his tractor just as I was leaving, so I gave him a friendly wave and he didn’t seem bothered, just got on with spraying his crops.

I rode back to the coast and Montrose, past the House of Dun which sounds impressive but was closed (too early), so I didn’t get to check it out. Rejoining route 1 I went round in an accidental circle because I wasn’t concentrating and missed a turning, think I was tired from yesterday and feeling a bit low with another overcast and cold day on the cards; nose still really sore too, despite aloe vera vaseline. Said hello to various dog walkers out for a morning stroll, and dutifully scooping the poop.

Anyway, picked up the right trail in the end and cycled through a couple of nature reserves. It was a good path to start off with, and a sign said I might see common lizards, this being one of their last habits in the North East.

Montrose cycle path

Montrose cycle path and lizards


Montrose cycle path - smooth ride at present

Montrose cycle path – smooth ride at present


Montrose cycle path - view from viaduct

View from viaduct, chilly day

There was another nature reserve at St. Cyrus, followed by a steep climb back on to the main route which got me going. Pedalled along to Johnshaven, where I nipped into a local shop and bought some ginger biscuits. Really wanted a fry up but no cafes present. I ate some cheese and oatcakes instead to try and boost energy levels.

I opted for the coastal rather than road option on route 1 for the next bit, which was an error really considering the path is more like a cobbled road or beach for the most part. Bit of bumpy and frustrating ride through to Gourdon, and one I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re on a mountain bike. Reckon it was probsbly the old coastal road in he past and was cobbled, but has since deteriorated. I really appreciate the national cycle network routes but they can be a mixed bag, and some really aren’t suitable for road bikes, tough though mine is. I had assumed wrongly that any marked cycle route would be road worthy, not always the case so worth bearing in mind and checking beforehand.


Johnshaven – fishermen were unloading their catch


Route 1 - coastal option

Route 1 – coastal option – right next to the sea 


Break in Gourdon

Break in Gourdon

Post Gourdon I had to rejoin the A92 for a bit before turning off onto country roads again. The wind seemed to have changed direction to come from the north/north east, so I had a headwind again, and was getting cold despite the considerable number of hills, so it was slow progress to Stonehaven. I was also on a contemplative mood and found my thoughts turning to Lu, as they often do. I haven’t thought about her last few days for a while as it’s a box I don’t like to open too often, too painful and makes me sad, and angry that she didn’t have longer. You always wonder what else you could have done, but with cancer there isn’t much one can do other than be there, offer support, love & comfort, and listen, which thankfully I was able to do. The Big C, for whom I’m raising money on is tour, offer fantastic support for patients, so all donations gratefully received – link to Charity in top nav or here.

So feeling a little down in the dumps I made it to Stonehaven, where things immediately improved when I found a proper toilet! Things continued to improve with lasagne at a hotel bar (the Royal I think) in the town, plus a pint of Caledonian Best. Noticed Stonehaven also has a Gold Gilt award, at least I think it did, perhaps because it’s home to the original deep fried Mars Bar, or so the sign claimed.

Battered Mars Bar

Stonehaven – home to the battered Mars Bar

I still haven’t tried one, and not sure I want to particularly. I might do just to see what all the fuss is about, but I’d rather have some haggis and black pudding really.

Post lunch and chatting to a few people interested in what I was doing, they thought I was crazy, I set off out of Stonehaven on route 1, avoiding the A90 as it’s just not that safe. Even though it sticks closer to the coast than route 1, I didn’t fancy the traffic. As I left I remembered one of the families I’d met near Stirling lived here and had invited me round should I need a break. Thanks for the invite Jackie, and sorry I didn’t make it – maybe on the next lap!

Feeling buoyed post lunch and a pint I powered up the hill out of Stonehaven, and into a series of convoluted country roads I’d have got lost in if not or the route 1 signs. This part of the route may have been designed by a madman or sadist, seeming to pick out every available hill, of which there were many, go up them rather than around them, and go back on itself. It felt at times like I was tacking. I like the challenge of a hill climb but on a 100 pound bike they can get tedious. Saying that the countryside was lovely, and well worth the pain in the legs. There were hardly any cars, just the occasional tractor, and odd fellow cyclist to say hello to.

I passed a lot of cows/calves/bulls/bullocks, who made polite conversation. I asked them if my mobile reception was likely to improve but they were on a different network so didn’t know, the sheep, lambs and horses were no help either. I was able to focus on more positive thoughts in the afternoon, remembering Lu in better times, and quietly updating her as to my progress.

Highland cattle

Highland cattle saying hello


Oil seed rape

And it was all yellow, passed a lot of fields of this on tour so far


Random dog obstacle course in middle of nowhere

Random dog obstacle course in middle of nowhere

So the route took me out of Stonehaven, round to Cookney which I thought was called Cockney and started singing the Lambeth Walk, then I lost track a bit, before arriving in Portlethen, along to Cove Bay, around the point at Nigg Bay and into Aberdeen via the docks, which were quite impressive. 

Aberdeen lighthouse

Aberdeen lighthouse 


Aberdeen fog horn

I preferred the fog horn though


Aberdeen docks

Aberdeen docks – a lot of ships coming and going

It was a bit windy and raining in the latter stages, with a lot of traffic, but good to be in Aberdeen. With improved mobile reception I located a campsite 6 or 7 miles out of town, along the Dee, so using google maps I made my way there via a nice cycle track, the Deeside Way. Lovely smooth ride, with no headwind, a welcome relief. I reached the Deeside Holiday Park by 17.30, having covered about 65.7 miles, and had a bit of a fist pump moment when I noticed the large and welcoming inn next door. The campsite/caravan park was good, with a nice toilet/shower block, kitchen if you needed it but for extra, a TV and games room where I could recharge my phone and iPad, and a good pitch for my tent. Not as nice as the smaller more personal sites but you’ve got to love a hot shower post two days in the saddle. 

Showers are also handy for washing your cycling bib and tops through, and socks. Two jobs done in one and means you stay warm in the shower or longer. Not a really comprehensive clothes wash but gets rid of grime, sweat and associated salt which if left unchecked can cause the dreaded chafing! Also got chamois cream to help with that, which I rub into the material as well as apply to any afflicted areas, thankfully been mostly fine so far, probably because of the aforementioned practice.

All clean and in my civvies I made my way to the Old Mill Inn, serving great food and ale. Spent a very pleasant evening there chatting to the staff and a couple of touring (by car) Americans from Oregon, updating my journal and blog (free wifi) and of course eating. I had kipper pâté, followed by mixed grill including haggis and black pudding, then apple crumble, accompanied by three pints of ale. A little extravagant maybe but really nice and much needed. I sat next to a fire too, which although gas added to the pleasure of the evening. Slept well that night.

So a mixed day but ending on a high, and a relaxing day planned for tomorrow with some shopping in Aberdeen, and a short leg further up the coast. No troll sightings so think I’ve left them behind, what will be next? Maybe giants up North, who knows!?