In the van, waking up in the morning can often be a surprise – where are we?! But this morning we didn’t worry about that – instead we elected to make a cup of tea and read in bed. Like it were the weekend. We opted for opposite sides of the bed, top-to-tail, so we could put our cups of tea down. Willy-wonka old farts. But eventually we got up, and went to Scotland’s third largest city: Aberdeen.
We should’ve stayed in bed.
We headed directly to the Maritime Museum. Aberdeen industry has always been involved in the oceans – whether it is historic whaling, ship building, fishing or, more recently, oil drilling. So we were looking forward to some good stuff.
First hurdle: parking building. Good luck fitting a motorhome in a parking building! We kept driving along one-way streets, not knowing where to go – every parking sign led to a building! Eventually we spotted a Morrisons (supermarket) and took stock from there. I saw parks along ‘the Esplanade’ so we headed off in that direction. We ended up parking in front of an enormous golden sandy beach, a surprisingly lovely bit of colour in the otherwise drab grey city; pity about the weather!
Aside from the beach, the area around the esplanade is given over to entertainment of the most arsey kind. An enormous American-style mall sits with a theme park behind it. We head to the museum, over a lawn recently vacated by a circus; crop circles of rotting and yellowed grass attest to the joy. Walking through a still-active port area is never going to give a good impression of a city, and it didn’t. Everything in Aberdeen is built in granite – cold, grey stone.
The museum is part modern and part old harbourmaster’s house or something, and rises five stories. It’s free. We could tell it was free because it was swarming with young kids. Kids with hands-off parents no less, who were all quite happy to let their kids get in the way, scream and yell and generally make the whole visit something of an ordeal for anyone but themselves.
The content of the museum was pretty standard – models of boats ‘n that. Wellington’s Museum of City and Sea does so much more with so much less. But up the very top of the museum, they had information on the oil industry. This was new and interesting to me, but because it is the producer of wealth for Aberdeen and its people, it read something like a propaganda piece for oil. There was nothing on disaster mitigation for undersea oil spills – I thought that’d be interesting – and nothing on fracking – another environmental hot-topic. There was a great wee video on alternate power sources – tide machines and that – but it felt a bit tacked on, no depth.
There was one interesting figurehead, from the Star of Tasmania. The Star was built in Aberdeen in 1856 and wrecked on the coast of Oamaru (Otago, NZ) 1868. Someone salvaged the figurehead, and it was discovered patching a hole in a farmer’s hedge in 1950. It was returned to Aberdeen in 2003, 150 years later – fun!
We had intended to go to another museum, but the kids had sapped our strength and we could see a horrid weather front moving in. Its colour matched the city:
We were not enamoured with the views of Aberdeen, didn’t want to see more – but we had noticed the entertainment complex by the van had a movie theatre. So to spend our afternoon, we watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and I have to say – it was the best bit about Aberdeen.
The film is the fifth in the Mission Impossible series, following the adventures of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force), led by Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, as they tackle their most mysterious enemy yet. It’s pretty great, and for two hours, we forgot we were in Aberdeen.
After the movie, we left. Leaving was also great, aside from the traffic – seems everyone had the same idea.
Our first free-camp option was a mere 20 minutes from the city centre – far too close to the city to avoid late night boy-racer douchebags. Heading to the next I lost my cool, swearing at the fine folks of Aberdeenshire, as I was unable to get Dotty across the fast lane of the A road. She simply won’t do 65mph up a hill, pedal to the metal we were doing about 50. No bastard would let me over, and I didn’t want to cause accidents – we missed that one.
On we went, further and further west. A forestry commission park on a mountain looked good; we rumbled up in 2nd only to find it in use by forestry, covered in stripped timber. Eventually we found a place to rest our heads, next to a trout fishery. The loveliness of the spot almost made up for the horrors getting there – what a day!