Final Totals: 22 days, 830 miles
I don't know if I ever saw Rich's Grandpa Fraser in his kilt. But I certainly saw pictures, and knew how proud he was of his heritage. And after all, we were wearing a patch of Fraser plaid on our Tartan Tour jerseys. So it seemed a serious omission to bypass Fraserburgh on our first circuit along the north coast. Now it was time to rectify that.
Scotland is famous for its changeable weather. As we headed for Fraserburgh the warm sun of recent days was just a memory as we entered a world of fog. The vistas were gone, but in exchange we had peaceful rural scenery.
Leaving the cycle route to continue east along the coast, we hadn't thought to check out the terrain. When the headlands reached into the clouds, we began to worry. Sure enough, more leg work was in store! Even I didn't think I could manage the steep grade, but it was mercifully short. With a heavy dose of determination along with ample huffing and puffing I reached the top.
With some slack in our itinerary and to give our bodies their first rest day, we decided to spend an extra day in Fraserburgh. I'll be honest and admit it wasn't the most picturesque or vibrant place in my book. But sitting out a day of strong winds, mist and damp weather did have its advantages.
The best feature in Fraserburgh is the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. We easily managed to spend three hours there, and learned a lot about the hard life of the keepers on the remote islands and rock lighthouses. Our admission included a tour of the adjacent Kinnaird Head Lighthouse with an extremely knowledgeable guide. It was the first lighthouse built on Scotland's mainland, erected right on top of the castle built by none other than the Frasers. A later renovation included a full lighthouse tower that rose up through the castle's great hall. Because the lighthouse was ultimately replaced by a new fully automated lighthouse, the works for the original light were left entirely in tact. We got to see it in operation, and appreciate the precision timing required for the light's unique signal.
Fraserburgh does have a fantastic beach, and is a a favorite for surfers. It didn't show off particularly well on a cloudy day, but I enjoyed watching a couple of hearty surfers attempt the waves. The harbor was full of fascinating and colorful boats. Unfortunately the commercial nature of the area prevented me from getting much more than a glimpse of these craft.
After a day of sluffing, I was more than ready to return to my bike. The continuing North wind finally benefitted us, blowing us across the flatter farmland to bring us back to Aberdeen. My favorite part of the journey was seeing the wind blow across the long grasses, creating moving shapes in waves across the field. They were bittersweet miles for me, knowing our tour was coming to an end.
The capstone of our Fraser tribute was to be a day trip to Fraser Castle. At only 15 miles away and sans gear, it should have been a breeze. Instead, it was an exercise in futility. While the fierce winds were aggravating, it was the heavy traffic, construction and dangerous roads that ultimately caused us to turn back. Despite a bit of friction over the decision, we managed to make peace and agree to spend the day exploring Aberdeen instead. And I finally got to use a bus shelter for its intended purpose!
We were unimpressed with Aberdeen's busy City Center, but thankfully the information center equipped us with a walking tour of Old Aberdeen. There we found peaceful streets, wonderful old buildings, thriving university life and a great campus hangout called Grub for a snack and warm-up.
Oh, and those crescents on top of these Turkish style gates at Powis House? Turns out they are the emblem of the Fraser family, who owned this estate before the gates were built. I guess it was a Fraser finish after all.