This week my escape was to Aberdeen, as I moved on to Version 3 of my overnight Change of Scene therapy.
I hesitated a lot about this one. I lived in the city for 7 years. One set of grandparents lived there. It has a lot of “past” for me at a time when the present is difficult and the future is… hard to predict.
I got a great deal at the Residence Inn (yes, Marriott again) at £78 for a studio, including breakfast. With all that Aberdeen blood and heritage in me (Scots will understand), how could I resist? The studio was the same as the one I had in Edinburgh two weeks ago for twice the price. It was spacious, comfortable and quiet (5th floor).
The hotel was not even a twinkle in an architect’s eye when I lived there, but it is across the street from Marischal College where I graduated and the Kirkgate Bar where I… well, the less said about that the better.
The hotel’s breakfast arrangements were different from any other place I have stayed recently. You order the night before for collection downstairs at the time you chose. Then you take it back to your room. They offered a choice between continental and cooked.
In the circumstances, it was fine. I chose their first slot at 7am, thinking it might be the quietest. Certainly their format involves a number of guests using the lift/stairs and congregating at reception all at the same time. If they are mindful of distancing etc, it is fine.
For dinner I chose a Caribbean place – Tango Turtle. It is near my hotel and got 5* reviews on a well known website (which I do not trust, and will not mention here). You have to start somewhere. It worked out very well, so the good reviews make sense. Good food. Good service. A pleasant atmosphere. All the right pandemic measures.
I paid £15 for two courses, plus a soft drink.
I broke my drive north at Stonehaven to visit Dunnottar Castle for the first time. Yes, I know. One of the country’s most photographed sights. I guess every time I pass by Stonehaven I am 30 minutes into a 2 hour drive, or 30 minutes from the end of one, so stopping to look at a ruined castle is not on the agenda.
Within Aberdeen my sightseeing involved just wandering around old haunts, and King’s College was a highlight. So much of it is preserved just as it was in the 60s and 70s as a result of its historical status. Usually it is quieter in the summer, but this year it was almost deserted.
My other tourist activity was to fulfil a decades long desire to visit Pennan, on the north Buchan coast.
It was one of the locations for filming Local Hero (1983). It is a beautiful wee place.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021