Peter had recommended Findhorn and Kinloss so we set off to explore. First stop was the Kinloss Cistercian Abbey established in 1150 by King David 1 and by 1530 had become the centre of academic excellence however today it is a ruin. It most probably met its demise during the Reformation. 

We needed sustenance so headed for Findhorn. I had discovered that the alcohol level for driving in Scotland was zero, so it was a cup of tea for me. I did enjoy our meal at the Kimberly Inn. It was cosy and quaint and a refuge from the cold outside. We went for a walk and discovered the pretty beach huts and the rusted steel chain Highland cow. 

The largest town in the are is Forres. It is very pretty with amazing green spaces taking up a significant part of the town. This was where John’s great Grandmother was born. Initially I thought that having been born in Scotland and having the name Isabella McDonald Maund, she had to be Scottish. Wrong! She was English. Her parents travelled to the area from London and worked in the area as a mercer for ten years then headed back to the city. The women in the town library were very helpful and I left with a few more clues and a couple more problems to solve. 

Seeing we were in Forres we decided to have a look at the Sueno Stone, a gigantic Pictish stone 7m tall with ornate and unique carvings of a battle scene on one side and an ornate cross on the other. Archaeologists have no idea about the significance of the stone or what it is depicting. There were a number of guesses in the information stands which I appreciated as I think a lot of archaeology is about guessing. 

The drive from Duffus to Aberdeen airport is usually about an hour and a half. We took the long way – The Coastal Drive. Sue had picked up some pointers from a Facebook page called Scotland by the roadside. We had the most wonderful drive finding crazy people learning to SUP in freezing water, highland cows sitting around, idyllic little ports where films and TV series were shot and a fabulous cliff-walk at the Bullers of Buchan. We met Stewart and Moira, an English couple so enamoured with Scotland they moved to Edinburgh. We drove into a little cove where we thought we could sit and have coffee, but our hopes were dashed when we discovered it was take-away only. Then as we went to drive back up the hill the car radio suddenly and inexplicably bust into a rendition of a classical piece which was so surprising it created a storm of mirth. It took a while and a few tissues to regain my composure. 

It was around 3:30 when we arrived in Aberdeen. We needed to buy sim cards and Google told us that there was a Three shop located in Bon Accord – a massive shopping centre in the middle of a town dazed and confused by one-way streets and deviations. To add to our angst it seemed one had to be from Aberdeen or disabled in order to park. I did find a spot but when I got out I noticed feint writing and told Sue we were in a ‘Disabled’ park. “Oh!” she said, “then limp!!” Frustration again succumbed to mirth. We asked a couple of locals and even they had trouble explaining and while we were trying to cogitate the directions we were simultaneously stumbling over the accent. It was all so much fun.

Eventually we ignored a deviation sign, crawled into a multi-level car park and figured it would probably be associated with some sort of shopping centre. It was the railway station but as luck would have it, it was also the Union Square Shopping Centre Aberdeen for the ultimate shopping and dining experience. We were in business. The little man in the pop-up phone shop told us he knew nothing about the incredible array of sim cards he was selling, after all, he just worked there. He suggested we go to the phone shop in the next arm of the centre and there we found an amazing young man who knew what we wanted and did everything- replaced the sims and got everything up and going. A Saint!!! 

Driving to the airport was a breeze. Sue is an excellent navigator. The hotel at the airport had a twin ie two hotels with the same name so of course we got the wrong one at first. Leonardo Hotel formerly known as blah blah blah (Opps missed that bit!!) We settled into our massive room with two luxurious double beds and tucked into our goodies for dinner. The following day we would enjoy a leisurely breakfast, return the car and chill out while we waited for our noon flight.

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