Aberdeen with no mishaps, having set off relatively early at 8.30am.
Although Haddo House isn’t open for tours until midday during the week, you are free to roam the surrounding park from dawn till dusk all year round.
It’s relatively easy to find on the outskirts of Methlick, and the winding estate driveway is rather befitting of this Georgian property.
Were it not for the raisins lodged in every crevice of my car, I could almost fancy that I was visiting the Gordon Family, who transformed the once boggy land more than 500 years ago.
The car park was almost empty when we arrived, and I can highly recommend visiting early doors.
With the mist rising from the grassland and the morning sun dappling through the autumn branches, all felt peaceful and still.
Part of the joy of the country park is the fact that it enables you to roam to your heart’s content.
You can walk for miles thanks to a new network of paths.
Muddy in places, you’re best wearing wellies or walking boots.
The scenery is particularly stunning at this time of year.
It’s not difficult to spot wildlife, and Haddo’s red squirrels are undoubtedly the stars of the show. They are often easier to see in the winter, but tend to blend in with the fabulous colours at this time of year. They are also well used to people, meaning you can get quite close before they disappear up a tree trunk.
You can make the very most of red squirrel spotting opportunities thanks to a newly-built viewing hide and feeding station.
The lake is home to otters alongside Goldeneye and Goosander ducks, as well as Greylag Geese who pay a visit from Iceland.
There is also a small duck pond, and Reuben was stopped in his tracks by its rather enthusiastic residents, who made it clear they were expecting brunch.
You can buy duck food on site, but my organised friend created a quackers friendly mixture of porridge oats and seeds.
I made sure to keep Alfie on a lead and at a safe distance during duck feeding, as Jack Russells and birds don’t tend to mix.
He thoroughly enjoyed being off lead the rest of the time, however, and there are dozens of trails to explore.
We then made our way to one of several adventure playgrounds.
Part of the revamp, there is a wide range of wooden play equipment available for all ages at several different spots.
Rope climbing frames, safari jeeps and the classic swing, Haddo puts the average play park to shame.
The more eagle-eyed will also be able to spot the rare and spectacularly coloured Waxcap fungi, which can be seen on the lawns and gardens in September and October.
We made our way back to the car just as the grounds were starting to get busy at lunchtime.
You could easily spend all day at Haddo, and factor in a tour of the house itself before enjoying a fine piece in the lovely tearoom.
There is also a visitor centre, and toilets are available in The Pheasantry and stable block.
As a mum, I believe the best kind of days are spent taking big bellyfuls of fresh air, when you are unaware of the hours slipping by.
Haddo certainly delivered on this front, and we can’t wait for our next visit.
Haddo House and Country Park, Methlick, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 7EQ
points due to wildlife
Yes, plus overspill car park Depends how many climbing frames you attempt!
Yes, keep on a lead at certain
Black Rock Gorge, Evanton IV16 9UN.
Short circular woodland walk of 4km. Open all year Evanton Airfield, beside the Cromarty Firth, played a significant part in naval aviation. The original site to the east of the town, called Novar Airfield, was opened in 1922, but with the outbreak of the Second World War, it was renamed HMS Fieldfare, and used as a school for flight, bombing and armament training. There’s not much left of it as it became an industrial estate in the 1970s. This walk is on the other side of Evanton village, though. Park in the village centre car park then make your way northwestwards to a path that leads to the spectacular Black Rock gorge. With the Allt Graad at its foot, the gorge featured in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At the top, cross the gorge footbridge and return along the north side.
Formartine and Buchan Way, Dyce AB21 7BA. An 86km-long footpath in eight easy sections. Open all year
RAF Dyce, now better known as Aberdeen Airport, has a distinguished wartime history. It was home to both fighter and photo-reconnaissance squadrons, among others, but became nationally famous in 1943 when an enemy Junkers JU88 landed there with a defecting German crew. The intact plane was of huge intelligence value to the Allies. Today, international flights from Dyce are usually more peaceful, as is the first eight-mile section of the F and B Way from Dyce railway station to Udny Green. Being a former railway line, the gradients are gentle and the farmland scenery pleasant once clear of the built-up area. The route is well suited for bicycles so kids can pedal in safety. Take as long or as short an out-and-back walk as you want. You’re unlikely to meet any defecting Junkers crews along the way.