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Tuesday 3 September 2019

Holidays For The Obsessed

On Thursday we head up on our usual pilgrimage to Scotland accompanied by this year’s audiobook which is Lethal White, the fourth novel in the Cormoran Strike series. This year we head to the east coast as this is probably the only area of Scotland that we haven’t given any serious attention to.

On the way we stop off to see an old friend in Moffat where we reacquaint ourselves with the Camping Club campsite, the Black Bull pub and the Green Frog café for breakfast. We do try a new bar in the Stag Hotel but we have a spot of dog trouble in there and have to make a swift exit.

Our next stop is Banchory where we are booked into the Feughside Caravan Park for four nights. This is about 25 miles from Aberdeen where we are doing the Great Aberdeen Run on Sunday but, for those of us who are obsessed, we are only 10 miles from Crathes Castle parkrun. Where we are made very welcome and they even introduce a new hilly course for us. Allegedly they’d always been wanting to run this route since the event started in February but had never been able to do before.

Sunday’s Great Aberdeen Run is a more serious undertaking, a half marathon for me and a 10k for L. It is also seriously warm and we are fortunate to find a nice shady multi-storey car park to keep the dogs cool.

The race starts on Union Street, skirts the rather nice harbour before going along the esplanade. Then it’s over the Bridge of Don to take us along a ‘beautiful’ dual carriageway for one those out and backs before looping back across the River Don into ‘old’ Aberdeen complete with serious hills and cobbles. Then it’s back down the esplanade and past Aberdeen FC’s Pittodrie stadium, which I managed to miss, before heading back into the city centre and a downhill finish back on Union Street.

Having survived the run in a leisurely 01:50, I then slip off the rocks on the beach on some seaweed and twist my ankle. L tells me to go stand in the sea until the swelling goes down.  Much to our surprise Aberdeen has the most amazing beach and it is ideal for the dogs. Although the Lad possibly preferred an equally excellent one at Cruden Bay. He does seem to love his beach. I thought he was a bit timid the last time he saw a beach but L doesn’t recall the Lad ever being timid about anything.

While in the area we also take in the many sights which are more than just legendary chip shop in Stonehaven which was the birthplace of the Deep Fried Mars Bar and Donald Trump’s Golf Course.

We eat two nights at the Douglas Arms and once at Tor-na-collie Hotel (collies not invited despite the name) in Banchory as well as frequently numerous different outlets for breakfast.

On Tuesday we move on from Banchory and spend in Banff. The campsite is right on the sea front, so that is popular with the boys too. On the way we stop off at Cullen Bay, the home of Cullen Skink and at the Strathisla Distillery in Keith where we buy this year’s bottle of whiskey. Having actually brought the dregs of last year’s with us to finish off.

We then arrive in Huntly which has a nice castle and a Nordic Ski Centre. My ankle is recovering now so we do a couple of runs with the dogs here as we prepare for our next event at the weekend.

Huntly isn’t great for pubs or restaurants. Meaning we eat both nights in the Gordon Arms and drink at the Crown where the real ale is on key keg largely from the Windswept Brewery in Lossiemouth. The first night there is great and we are persuaded to being the dogs in for the second night which is a bad call when we find that the place is packed for a darts match.

Our next port of call is Grantown on Spey where we set up camp for three nights over the weekend so that the obsessed can take in Aviemore Parkrun on the Saturday and the Speyside Windfarm Challenge on the Sunday.

Aviemore Parkrun is my worst nightmare. An out and back along a narrow rutted track which isn’t good for my ankles, for running with a manic dog or doing a good time. Needless to say the Lad and I run a PB - 21:11. Then while we are celebrating with breakfast the heavens open and stay open for 24 hours or so meaning we almost get flooded off the campsite. What is worse is when we take a drive up Cairngorm and stop briefly to feed the dogs, the entire midge population of the area decide to take shelter in our car. That’s not a pleasant experience but it’s thankfully the old time we come across any of the blighters all trip.

On Sunday we head to the Margach Hall near Knockando to register for the Speyside Windfarm Challenge. From there we have to drive two miles out into the middle of nowhere to Kirdelbeg Farm from where the race starts. L again opts for a 10k while I do the full distance which in this case is 12 miles.

The mission, should we chose to accept it, is to run up the hill known as Paul’s Hill to the windfarm and back. Those doing the 12 miler get to do a lap of all windfarm as well. So it wasn’t flat. In fact is was 1400ft of climbing in total.

Allegedly from the top there are views of the Cairngorms, the Spey Valley and the Moray Firth. None of this scenery looks remotely likely as it starts to rain again almost as soon as we get started. Amazingly though it does fine up and some views are possible as we do a tour through the turbines but I couldn’t tell you what I saw.

The rocky surface isn’t ideal for my ankles but I manage to get through it without twisting anything and, in an admittedly small field, we are both top 20. I do the 12 miles in a time of 01:41:17 which seems fairly decent and come 18th. L was 15th in the 10k.

Back at the hall there are loads of sandwiches and cakes. There’s also a raffle which we don’t buy any tickets for but end up with four prizes. They take so long getting around to drawing the raffle that everyone else on our table goes home and leaves us with their tickets. We accept two of the prizes but ask them to redraw the others.

When we get back to Grantown On Spey we find the place in lockdown due to the Motormania car festival they have on but by then we have missed out on seeing what it is all about. Grantown is better for food although busy and we eat in the Grant Arms Hotel, No. 7 Bistro and post-race go for an Indian in the Sylhet Brasserie.

On Monday we start heading back south and stop off to break the journey in Jedburgh with its ruined Abbey, its Jail and its Mary Queen Of Scots was here claims and where we get a decent meal in the Carters Rest. 

(Tuesday 3rd September)

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