After breakfast, me and mum-in-law headed for Balmoral Castle – the Royal Family’s Scottish home. Unfortunately we were only going as part of a tour, rather than esteemed guests, but I can but dream. Not surprisingly, visitors travel from all corners of the globe, and the car park was rammed. It’s also compulsory to take a little guided tour of parts of the house, and to watch a video, before you’re let loose in the gardens – our real reason for visiting. Eventually we were allowed to roam free though.
Like Highgrove, and much to our delight, the gardens aren’t immaculate. I’m not really into that whole overly manicured, pristine, house and garden thing, and it seems that neither are the Royals. I also like to grow veg as as well as flowers, and always think it a shame that more gardeners don’t try and at least become a little bit more self sufficient. The Balmoral Winter cabbages were a sight to behold! So too were their lettuces.
After admiring the flower nurseries, and making a mental note to plant some Winter anenomes for a splash of colour in the darker months, we walked through the grounds to a paddock holding some of the Queen’s much loved ponies. One in particular immediately took a shine to me, and kept givng me very affectionate horsey kisses.
We then walked through woodland, past the memorial to Princess Alice – former Grand Duchess of Hess, and daughter of Queen Victoria, and down to the River Dee. It’s easy to see why Queen Victoria fell in love with this landscape, and why the Royal Family have such a soft spot for it. It’s absolutely stunning, and private – the castle can’t be seen from the road.
On the way back to Neids Cottage we stopped off in Braemar – a very pretty town, that gets busy douring the Summer. We found a lovely tea shop serving gluten free cake, and then a butcher where we bought haggis. You cannae beat really good haggis served with neeps (swede), braised red cabbage, caramelised potatoes, and gravy. The weather took a turn for the worse as we drew closer to Glen Isla, and mum-in-law had to drive through a few local floods (sensibly – she’s a trained flood rescue person), but it didn’t detract from the views. This is definitely a part of Scotland I’d like to see more of.