We started our New Year in Stonehaven, Scotland, which is a village by the sea about 30 miles south of Aberdeen.
For Hogmanay, which is the New Year festival in Scotland, locals in Stonehaven light huge fireballs at midnight and swing them around while walking up and down the street.
There were probably 50 people swinging these balls of fire and sparks were flying off of them. You could feel the heat of the balls when they walked by, a relief in the cold night air.
After about twenty minutes, they all took their fireballs and threw them into the harbor where a giant 2014 was lit on fire, followed by a fireworks display. The whole event was unlike anything I have been to on New Year’s Eve before (especially since I usually stay home in my PJs and am asleep before midnight), but it was great fun, and we were all glad we went.
We had my parents here for the holidays, so in addition to seeing the Stonehaven Fireballs, we did a bit of touring around Scotland, making the most of our short winter days.
They were great sports about the weather, which alternated between cold, clear days and dreary, wet ones.
We went to Inverness on the train and spent the day touring around Loch Ness. We loved going to Urquhart Castle, even though it was raining.
Castle ruins continue to be a favorite with us, and we found another one closer to Aberdeen on a day with more sunshine.
I loved Auchindoun Castle because you have to walk a mile to get to it from the road. A little walk into the woods and over the fields to a castle ruin is about the best cure for winter blues I can think of, especially if the sun is beckoning. LOVE!
Auchindoun Castle is near Dufftown, where there are at least seven whiskey distilleries.
We visited the Glenfiddich Distillery.
I enjoyed hearing the history of William Grant and his sons building this distillery from scratch in 1887. They bought these copper stills used, so they are all different shapes and sizes.
Maybe the most interesting thing in any distillery or winery to me is the artisan craft of making these oak barrels. The people who make and maintain these barrels are “coopers” and in Scotland, you have to apprentice for four years before you can be a cooper, a job you do for your whole life before passing on the art to someone else.
These barrels are so valuable that they are given new lives as planters once they can no longer hold wine or whiskey.
Glenfiddich means Valley of the Deer, and it is the most beautiful valley. We did not spot any deer but we saw several of these beautiful Highland Cows (Heilan Coos).
I am so curious about what the world looks like from behind all that hair in their eyes!
We found these cows across from Balvenie Castle, which is just up the road from Glenfiddich. It is closed due to construction, which is funny to me since it is a ruin, but I guess they have to be preserved to stay so pretty.
We were happy just to view it from the outside and see the cows and the green, green grass.
The day before my parents left we went to Edinburgh Castle, which made seven castles total that we managed to show my parents in the 11 days they were here! In Edinburgh, it was raining and the wind was blowing so hard that they actually closed the castle as we were leaving because they were worried someone might be blown off the hilltop!
The crazy weather did not keep us from having a great day in Edinburgh. We even visited the Christmas Market, which was up through January 6! The big Ferris wheel was not going because of the wind, but the kids rode the Merry Go Round instead. The pretty horses + one final holiday Gluhwein for the adults made a perfect ending to our holiday.
I was a little worried about my parents coming to see us during the darkest days of winter here in Scotland, but it turned out to be a perfect time to visit. Don’t be fooled though. The above dark, blurry and dreary photo is what it looked like outside, which made for loads of snuggle time in the evenings. We drank about a thousand cups of tea and watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies!
I was sad to see my parents go but we had such a wonderful visit! To see all our photos from our time in Scotland with my parents, you can look at this Google+ album. (my new favorite way to share photos!)
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