As I write this it is the 1st May 2021 and this week we went out our first staycation of 2021. We were still in the North East of Scotland but it was a change of scenery from Aberdeen city and I am so grateful for that. Our chosen location for this great adventure was Portsoy. Located in Banff it is about 80km North West of Aberdeen, so about an hour and twenty minutes drive from my house. Portsoy is best known for its historic 17th Century Harbour which makes it the oldest on the Moray Firth. As the herring fishing industry grew a second new harbour was built in 1825 and at its peak there were 57 boats in the harbour. Which is difficult to imagine now. There are a few fishing boats still there but tourism provides a large amount of the income now.
Portsoy is one of our favourite campsites, we have camped there twice in lockdown already. You can go to sleep listening to the sound of the sea which is pretty special So as soon as restrictions eased on the 26th April and we were allowed to leave our local area, we made a booking at the community owned Portsoy Links Caravan Park and we were on our way. It’s a very pretty drive over too through the Scottish countryside which is an added bonus. I currently have a fractured ankle so I am in an aircast boot and on crutches so my mobility is pretty limited but I was not missing out on the first staycation of the year.
The parents generously offered to put the tent up on arrival though as it was pouring with rain. But hey we are allowed to leave our local area, we were camping on the beach and it was my first staycation of 2021. Amusingly we were the only tent in the campsite. Everyone else was in caravans, camper and or mobile homes. Over my two decades plus of camping I have seen a general decline in the number of people camping in tents and also in caravans and a big increase in camper vans and mobile homes. But I felt we were pretty well set up because we had our big tent which has a nice big day area and a sleeping area. Then the parents were sleeping in the roof tent. So we had lots of space which we don’t have when we take the smaller mountaineering tents (can you tell we are a very outdoorsy family?).
Evening one featured dinner out. It was in fact my first meal out since my last London dinner in March 2020. That’s quite mind blowing to think about actually. Talk about lockdown life. But it really was a great meal to come back to. We went just along the coast to Cullen as we had a booking at the Seafield arms hotel. It is worth remembering as rules are at the moment, although this will no doubt change, you can only have a table for two hours and it is being quite closely enforced. You can also only sit inside until 20:00 and can’t have alcohol whereas you can be outside until 22:00 and can have alcohol. We had opted to be outside and as such were seated in their outdoor area but it had a covered roof, heaters, screens and was just overall very civilised. The staff were so welcoming and the food was absolutely delicious. I was particularly impressed as it was their first night open in a long time. The staff were very slick and had clearly been preparing for opening night. The Hotel has put a lot of money into redecorating and it has paid off well. I would highly recommend.
As some of you will know I struggle with mental illness including anxiety. I find that eating out can make me quite anxious. I struggle with choosing food and making the ‘right decision’ and I get worried that other people are watching me eat and judging me. That worry has been worsened by the lack of socialising and activities over the last year. I am sure a lot of people can relate to that. I am excited for life to get back to normal but apprehensive as well. I just hope people remember that the crisis isn’t over yet and to be keep being careful, wearing masks and social distancing. But that’s enough on Covid. I settled down into the meal and relaxed as the evening went on. I focused on conversation with my family, taking photos and generally enjoying my meal. I had a very aesthetic low alcohol gin, veggie main course and a delicious elderflower crème brûlée for dessert. So overall it was such a lovely evening out with my family (and it was nice to be away from the tent for a bit)!
I will say part of the reason it was nice to get out of the tent for a bit is that we haven’t had the best weather. There is clearly something about Portsoy that every time we come here it rains. My boot isn’t really supposed to get wet, a bit damp is fine, but not the pouring Scottish rain. So I had to rock a very trendy plastic bag cover thing. I think it really just pulled all my outfits together. I won’t lie, getting from the tent to the toilet block on my crutches and boot was a struggle. Never take your mobility for granted. On top of that Injured life is chilling in the car whilst your family goes for a stroll. It’s hard not to get frustrated at having such a lack of independence yet again. The family was so good, as always, in making me feel included but I would much rather be healthy not need the special treatment. Still can’t quite believe that I have a fractured ankle. But I just have to keep moving forwards.
Anyway enough of the health ramble. I just wanted to include it because I can sometimes find when I read travel blogs that everything sounds perfect and people are having a great time 24/7. It can seem like there are never any down or lonely moments in travel. Then I can feel like I am not appreciating my holiday enough or I am not being busy enough and I should try harder. If you have ever felt like that please don’t. Travel is amazing, it has given me so many memories, friends, skills, experiences and more. I love the thrill of exploring different places. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have times where I am exhausted and wish I was back in my own home bed or where I have felt too anxious to fully explore an area or I have sat in McDonalds for an afternoon because I just wanted fries and free WIFI. When you let go of the expectations and comparisons that is when you can make your adventures your one and enjoy them guilt free.
The highlight of day two was driving the 40 miles along the coast to another historic fishing village called Findhorn. Fun historical fact for you, in Findhorn played host to a brief moment in the 1745 Jacobite Uprisings. In March 1746 the French brigantine Le Bien Trouvé entered Findhorn Bay carrying dispatches for the leader of the Uprising, Bonnie Prince Charlie. Unfortunately for the French Ship two British war ships turned up! But the bay was too shallow for the British Ships to enter so they had to wait, thus allowing Le Bien Trouvé to sneak out past them in the night.
Coming back to the present day Findhorn village is not perhaps the prettiest in the Moray area. But it has two stand out features. Number one being the view out across the gorgeous coastal estuary. At this time of year the yellow flowers on the broom are out in force and provide a colourful natural frame to the bay. There are even some bright beach huts, more typical of the South of England, looking out over the sea. The next highlight is the Bakehouse shop and Café. Of course due to Covid they are only doing takeaways just now but I would still highlight recommend. They have a range of cakes and savoury items like dahl and quiche as well as excellent coffee. I opted for an oat milk cappuccino and banana bread. I am a big banana bread fan so I can confirm that it was an excellent slice. We also got a little carried away buying things in the shop. But hey it is good to support local business right?
Day three after another wet and windy night in the tent we woke up to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. It is in moments like that I am reminded just how special the Scottish coastline is. So on that note I am going to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst looking out across the sea.
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside,
Oh I do like to be beside the sea,
It’s a tune lots of us know,
I read it in song that’s just how it goes.
But the words are so true,
for me and maybe for you.
Standing here in the breeze,
My fingers are starting to freeze.
But that doesn’t matter at all
Because here I can hear the birds call.
The seagulls shriek as they fly
A few rush by,
Their feet leaving prints on the sand.
It’s magic to ponder where next they will land.
They have such freedom.
Looking out on the ocean that’s what I feel.
Wounds inside me starting to heal.
Holes being filled with salt tinged air.
Smiling as the wind tangles my hair.
The waves crash on to land
Their noise better than any band.
The light sparkles on the water.
Rock pools shimmer and gleam,
Every moment is one of beauty it seems.
I breath in deeply.
Storing the feeling in a memory chest
So next time I am not feeling my best,
I can turn to this moment and think
Today I will not sink.
I will fly like a gull into who knows what
But I will not give up.
Portsoy Links Caravan Park: https://portsoylinks.org/
Seafield Arms: https://www.seafieldarmscullen.co.uk/
The Bakehouse: https://www.bakehousecafe.co.uk/