THE LOWDOWN

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - OUTDOORS -

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

Yes

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.

FLIGHT TRACK

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.

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