Curling in Ballater and the Royal Station Museum

This morning I went for a run around the golf course in Ballater. The roads and pavements in the village have icy patches which aren’t visible with the coating of snow they got yesterday and so it can be slippery running around the streets. The grassy golf course seemed a safer option. It turned out to be a great decision as the golf course was even more beautiful than yesterday and there was not a soul there. IMG_8623

The course backs onto the River Dee and there’s a lovely path running along beside it.

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I think if I was going to play golf I’d want to play in this kind of environment. A non-white ball would probably be required though.

The former train station in Ballater – where Queen Victoria used to arrive on her trips to Balmoral Castle – has a fabulous little museum with a Royal Carriage and Royal Waiting Room – including the Royal Dunny – and wax statues of Queen Victoria and her entourage. Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle for Queen Victoria in 1852. Apparently the surrounding countryside reminded him of his homeland in Germany where there were hills and forests. Queen Victoria must have liked the forest too as she bought the 2,500-acre Ballochbuie forest in 1878 to save it from timber merchants and it’s apparently one of the largest surviving remnants of the original Caledonian forest.

There is a lot of forest in this part of the country and I love it. Trees are pleasing to look at and perform lots of other important functions like providing habitats and food for animals; they also suck CO2 from our atmosphere. Organisations such as Trees for Life are working to restore forest to other parts of Scotland. One problem is that new seedlings are eaten by deer before they grow into trees and so the forests that still exist today consist of old trees only. There are no or few new ones growing to replace the old ones as they die. Once upon a time the deer population was controlled by wolves but they have been wiped out from the UK. There is a push to reintroduce them, which will be a good thing for the forests here. Apparently beavers were recently reintroduced to the Knapdale forest region as part of a five-year trial. The trial has recently ended and the results are still to be released.

Just next to the golf course in Ballater is a little pond which is completely frozen over. I took this photo on my run this morning and thought how lovely it would be to go ice-skating on it. It turns out the locals use it for curling and that’s exactly what they were out doing when we walked past this afternoon.

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A curler told us it’s an old tennis court with about 12cm of water in it. I asked whether they ever used it for ice-skating and he said no, simply because no-one here goes ice-skating but that if I had my own ice-skates I would be welcome to skate on it. Next time I’m bringing some ice-skates! It looked like a wonderful place to skate and was completely deserted when I was there in the morning. The same fellow told us that last year it didn’t freeze over once as it was too mild. He said the climate is changing and it’s not as cold as it once was. He also added that people used to occasionally skate on the River Dee. There are apparently photos which prove it. It’s hard to imagine the River Dee completely freezing over for ice-skating now. It just doesn’t feel cold enough here.

We go back to Aberdeen tomorrow and I’m rather sad to leave. It’s so peaceful and beautiful here. Maybe we’ll retire here 🙂

A good video from Trees for Life: