Castle Crazy

Scotland’s Silver City is known for many things: its beautiful parks that have culminated in it winning numerous “Britain in Bloom” accolades; the tranquility and the fun that its sandy shores provide and a cosmopolitan collection of the biggest shopping and dining brands. However, whether you come to see the nature, the beach, the entertainment of a bustling city or even the glittering granite skyline, there is something else that you can see in particular abundance – castles. We are not just talking about a handful of castles, but over 300 and that is because Aberdeen is fortunate enough to be located on the outskirts of Scotland’s Castle Country. As the title alludes to, if you want to find castles, then you are certainly in the right place as Castle Country has more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. Consequently, whatever shape, size or colour you like your castles in – you are certainly going to find one that fits the bill!

Therefore, if you are staying with us in our Aberdeen apartments and are looking for a fun day trip full of majesty and rich heritage, make sure to check out Scotland’s dedicated “Castle Trail”. Consisting of 17 castles ranging from dramatic ruins to fairy-tale enchantment, there are so many wonders to explore and many are only an hour or so drive away from Aberdeen. For details of all the 17, make sure to check out http://www.visitaberdeen.com/assets/castletrail.pdf to get your Castle itinerary sorted. However, to give you a taster of all the fun that lies ahead, read on below to find out some of our personal favourites.

  1. Balmoral Castle

When talking about castles in Aberdeenshire, there is certainly one that can never be missed out – Balmoral Castle. Castles tend to have associations with royalty and that is certainly the case with Balmoral Castle because if it being located in Royal Deeside was not a big enough indicator, it is the much beloved holiday home of the royal family and this goes all the way back to Queen Victoria’s time who was actually the monarch to purchase the castle as she loved it so much after visiting it on a romantic break. However, the castle you are seeing today is not actually the original because Queen Victoria had it knocked down and then rebuilt – when you are a Queen, you are able to wield that level of power!

Apart from the royal connection, it is a stunning castle to view in its own right with the majestic grounds and the illustrious ballroom being particular highlights to look out for alongside the special exhibits. Due to the grounds and architecture being particularly well maintained and preserved – it is clear that it will stand the test of time and will be enjoyed for generations to come.

  1. Crathes Castle

Complete with the magic of turrets, towers, wielding staircases and gorgeous grounds, this 16th century tower house has all the enchanting features you associate with majestic castles. Complete with the finest and the most elegant decoration on the inside, particularly keep an eye out (or up!) for the lavishly painted ceilings,  there is also so much more on the outside to explore with over 200 acres of quintessential British woodland and countryside to roam. Between the aesthetic beauty and the sweet-smelling aroma of the luscious rose gardens, this is a castle to hit all the senses. Likewise, it is perfect for all the family with a children adventure’s playpark and most importantly of all, the ultimate UK tree-top adventure: Go Ape!.

  1. Dunnottar Castle

Some of us like our castles in a form that is akin to the splendour of those found in Disney movies, however some of us like them a little bit more dramatic – if so, Dunnottar Castle is the one for you. Exhibiting magnificence in a slightly different form, there is nothing quite like the indomitable, breath-taking cliff-side location of Dunnottar Castle which is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most impressive ruined castles. Surrounded by the ominous North Sea, this ancient and wonderfully gloomy castle conveys the rich stores of its past. With famous historical figures such as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots having visited the castle, this is certainly a castle for all the history buffs out there particularly as it was the infamous sight where a small garrison held out against Cromwell’s army for eight months and subsequently saved the Crown Jewels. Likewise, even movie fanatics will be particularly taken by this castle because as it tells the stories that are akin to those only found in the movies, it is no surprise that it has actually been featured as the landscape to many a feature film due to its cinematographic wonder. Therefore if you are wondering why the castle may seem so familiar, that is potentially because you have seen it showcased in movies including Hamlet featuring Mel Gibson as well as Victor Frankenstein (it was even partly inspiration for Disney’s Brave!).

  1. Cragievar Castle

However, for those fonder of the traditional castle type which emanates an ethereal and enchanting atmosphere, look no further than Cragievar Castle. A charming seven-storey castle, what particularly makes this castle stand out is its luminous and iconic pink coloured exterior – certainly one for those little girls who dream of being a princess. If you feel a little bit of magic in the air then it would not be surprising because Walt Disney was so taken by the castle, it is supposedly what inspired his pioneering imaginative spirit to conjure the renowned castle motif associated with the Disney brand. Still home to family portraits and ornate ceilings, the castle retains many of the treasures collected by the Forbes family across their 350 year residence there and it is that family atmosphere that really gives the castle that unique and welcoming spirit.

  1. Castle Fraser

Located only a convenient 16 miles from Aberdeen, if you are looking for splendour and grandness there is no castle that quite fills the brief like Castle Fraser which is one of Scotland’s most impressive baronial tower houses. Dating back to the 15th century, Castle Fraser is really orientated around the stories of its lairds and thus is rooted in Scottish history dating from the medieval and Victorian times. Particular highlights include the atmospheric simplicity of the Great Hall as well as the stunning panoramic views that are afforded from the round tower.

Fancying paying a visit to one, two or more of these castles? Of course! Well about challenging yourself and seeing how many you can visit in one day, or alternatively, how about a holiday dedicated to exploring the riches, treasures and captivating stories of these properties? With each of these castles offering something different, you can never explore too many – just make sure to check the opening times of the castles because they are subject to seasonal operating hours.

Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmoral_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crathes_Castle

http://www.castlexplorer.co.uk/scotland/fraser/fraser.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunnottar_Castle

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/alford/craigievar/

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Food for All!

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How many people do you think suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease which results in gluten intolerance? Well, according to statistics by Coeliac UK, it is a figure that stands at one in 100; inferring that the condition is not as rare as one may think. However, it is not just coeliacs that have special dietary requirements; it can also be those suffering from allergies such as peanut or egg allergies, dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance or those who are vegetarians or vegans or those who abide by Halal food laws. Whether you elect to follow a special diet or your health mandates it, it is irrefutable that it makes travelling that bit more strenuous and stressful because you have to go through the arduous process of sourcing what hotels, restaurants or cafes can meet your special dietary requirements. However, this is where staying in serviced apartments can start to make a difference because as our apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen containing modern appliances and utensils from an oven to a microwave, you can forget all the stress as you can dictate what you eat and it is just like being at home.

However, ultimately you are still away from home, and therefore you deserve to engage in a little bit of indulgence. Consequently, we thought we would provide you with a list of only a HANDFUL of the cafes, restaurants and chains that might be able to safely satisfy your palette when you stay in any of our city centre locations. If you have any recommendations, please let us know!

Aberdeen

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   Foodstory 

Image: http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/316760-thistle-street-cafe-foodstory-expand-with-coffee-bar-and-live-music/ 

The Bay, Stonehaven – fish and chips are an iconic part of the British diet but just because you are a Coeliac does not mean you have to miss out as the award-winning The Bay in Stonehaven can griddle or bake their sustainably sourced fish.

http://thebayfishandchips.co.uk/

Soul Kitchen – some restaurants will offer a token ‘gluten-free’ dish to appease their diners, however Soul takes it to a whole new level and even offers a full ‘gluten-free’ menu including burgers and steaks.

http://www.pbdevco.com/soul.html

Las Iguanas – with restaurants in all of our major UK city destinations from Aberdeen to Edinburgh to Birmingham, Las Iguanas is perfect for any diner regardless of their dietary requirements. Embodying both a gluten-free menu as well as a dedicated one for vegetarians and vegans, it is clear that Las Iguanas aims to please all with its tantalising Latin food.

http://www.iguanas.co.uk/

Howies – If you are seeking authentic, local and seasonal Scottish cuisine delivered with a smile, look no further than Howies which also has a location in Edinburgh. With a detailed allergen sheet as well as a myriad of gluten-free; dairy-free and Vegetarian dishes, you will be equally spoilt for choice here!

http://www.howies.uk.com/chapel-street-aberdeen/

Fifi’s Café Bistro – those following a gluten-free diet could not have a better selection to choose from then at Fifi’s Café Bistro – Aberdeen’s very first gluten free eatery. Serving everything from cakes to sandwiches, you definitely will not have to worry about what is safe to eat here.

https://www.facebook.com/fifiscafebistro/

Foodstory Aberdeen– healthy, locally sourced and environmentally friendly; the food could not be more pure or natural than at Foodstory Aberdeen where there is a community focused environment. Having been listed as one Scotland’s top veggie cafes, the food provided is predominantly vegetarian, vegan and raw and unique artisan coffees are also offered.

http://foodstorycafe.co.uk/

Glasgow

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  Topolabamba

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gertie_du/14933965291

Burger Meats Bun – pretty self-explanatory but if you are looking for somewhere that is able to offer gluten free and veggie burgers, you have found the perfect place and it has locations in both Glasgow and Edinburgh! Vibrant and busy, it is definitely one of the top spots in the city to grab yourself a decent satisfying burger.

http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/

Café Andaluz – also with locations in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, tapas tend to be a good choice for those with dietary requirements but Café Andaluz takes it to new levels with a strong range of veggie and wheat free products that mean the menu is equally proportioned and balanced. Choice will not be an issue here!

http://www.cafeandaluz.com/

The 13th Note – are you looking for some musical harmony to accompany delicious food? Look no further than the independent music venue The 13th note which is a vegetarian and vegan café but which also offers a tempting array of gluten free options.

http://13thnote.co.uk/

Topolobamba – Fancying something spicy and hot? Look no further than the delicious Mexican restaurant Topolobamba which has such a rich array of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, it actually highlights on its menu those options which are NOT gluten free.

http://www.topolabamba.com/

Red Onion – when people think of eateries that accommodate special dietary requirements, they tend to think of quirky independent cafes or restaurants that are tucked away. However, Red Onion is an award-winning contemporary, modern restaurant that was started by the internationally renowned chef, John Quigley. Have no worries about only having a few token dishes as Red Onion has all its bases covered from a gluten-free a la carte menu to a vegan set menu to a dairy free menu.

http://www.red-onion.co.uk/

Ushas – we have had Mexican, Latin and Spanish, but how about Indian? Ushas is Glasgow’s only Indian dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant and it offers a tempting collection of authentic street food.

http://www.ushas.co.uk/

For more information, make sure to People Make Glasgow’s dedicated website which has pages dedicated to Glasgow’s plentiful supply of vegan and gluten free dining options:

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/best-vegetarian-and-vegan-restaurants-in-glasgow

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/food-drink/gluten-free-dining-in-glasgow

Edinburgh

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 Hula Juice Bar

Image: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/students/things-to-do/edinburgh-food-drink

Henderson’s of Edinburgh – if you are looking for a vegetarian option in Edinburgh, it is probably best to start at one of the city’s oldest established vegetarian locations – Henderson’s of Edinburgh. A family run business, the warm service that Henderson’s offers is incomparable and with a bakery, bistro and deli – you know you will find a vegetarian option across all the food groups.

http://www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk/holding.php

The Baked Potato Shop – rather specialist, but if you are a fan of a vegan or vegetarian fresh hot tattie – look no further than The Baked Potato Shop which offers everyone’s favourite comfort food as well as some vegan cakes.

 https://www.facebook.com/thebakedpotatoshop

Loudons – everyone loves a homely bakery and there is nothing quite like this charming and welcoming spacious café which serves all manner of tempting goods from gluten free, dairy free, vegan and nut-free breakfasts and brunches.

http://www.loudons-cafe.co.uk/

Union of Genius – one of Scotland’s first soup cafes, this is the perfect place if you are looking for a homely cuppa of soup to warm the soul. Varying with the seasons and fresh off the hob, it offers an extensive selection of options to satisfy everyone from those who are gluten free to those who are dairy-free, even the accompanying breads, oatcakes and rice cakes are gluten free. Perfect for the winter season!

http://www.unionofgenius.com/

Sugar Daddy’s Bakery – keeping on with the bakery theme, Sugar Daddy’s bakery is a relatively new player on the gluten free block. Everyone fancies a good cupcake, brownie, cookies or traybake and you can eat these guilt-free as they are predominantly dairy free, egg free and vegan. Definitely the place if you fancy treating yourself!

http://www.sugardaddysedinburgh.com/

Hula Juice Bar – are you fancying a tempting cake, a revitalizing juice or a healthy fulfilling smoothie? Make sure to check out the award-winning Hula Juice Bar which caters to everyone from vegans, vegetarians and those on gluten-free diets. It is the perfect place for a pick-me-up and to find a natural cleanse for the soul.

http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/

For more information on the best gluten free eateries in Edinburgh, make sure to check out this dedicated blog: http://glutenfreeedinburgh.com/

Birmingham

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  Cosy Club Birmingham

Image: http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/birmingham 

The Warehouse Café

If you want to visit any Vegetarian restaurant in Birmingham, then of course you must want to visit the inaugural one which is widely renowned on the vegetarian scene! Birmingham’s original vegetarian restaurant which serves salivating British and contemporary international dishes as well as gluten-free options, is an award-winning restaurant that is tucked away next to the Bullring and occupies an illustrious spot in both new and old Birmingham.

http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/

Bella Italia

Everyone loves a good authentic Italian pizza or pasta, and whether you are vegetarian or have gluten intolerance, this popular chain can satisfy all requirements! With a clearly signposted menu, you do not have to eat in uncertainty of what you should and should not be eating.

http://www.bellaitalia.co.uk/menu/main-menu/?location=Birmingham

Bistro 1847

A restaurant group to be on the lookout for, 1847 is rapidly expanding across the country and caters predominantly to vegetarians but also to vegans and to those with gluten-free requirements. Modern and creative; it is definitely one to watch and to dine at!

http://by1847.com/

Cosy Club

Cosy is the perfect word to describe this group of restaurants as are the words: vibrant, effervescent, unique and quirky. Comfortable and casual, you can really make yourself feel a part of the furniture in this homely environment that also has dedicated gluten-free and vegan menus which can also be viewed online.

http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/

Henry Wong Harborne

It can be rather a challenge finding a Chinese restaurant that accommodates those with gluten intolerance, however Henry Wong Harborne perfectly fills this gap. With a gluten-free menu that is available on request as well as a dedicated vegetarian one, this elegant and refined Cantonese restaurant will definitely hit the spot.

http://henrywongharborne.co.uk/