Since my homegirls and I don’t have any kids yet, we were a bit more flexible than the group of 20 or so who join us for the AWA hikes. We decided that since we already had the day reserved for walking, we’d head to the town of Ballater to complete the Seven Bridges Hike just as soon as the ice melted. Jillian and I also decided to spoil our pups and take them along for the 7.5 mile trek. Sometimes I prefer to leave Bailey behind, but other times I can’t resist putting this jubilant smile on her face.
PS. This picture is blurry because it was the first picture I took of the day and the lens had iced over. (Yep, it’s pretty cold here.)
The hike starts in the town center and our first order of business was to hunt down a bathroom. We were out of luck when we tried the Visitor’s Center, but the cashier pointed us to a public restroom behind the village church. On our walk through the town, I quickly decided that Ballater is most definitely the cutest Scottish town there ever was. Add in the fact that it’s smack dab in the middle of the Cairngorm National Park and I am talking retirement plans. It was darn near perfect, except for one unforgivable flaw…when we arrived at the public restroom we were informed that it would cost 20 pence (about 35 cents) a pop.
Y’all know how I feel about paying for public restrooms. I’m pretty sure that’s what the 50% UK tax rate is for… ‘free’ health care and ‘free’ public restrooms. Normally I would have just gone behind the building in protest, but it was pretty cold, so we forked over our post tax 20 p and used the restroom. Once that little matter was settled we backtracked through town to cross our first of seven bridges that day.
It was a gloriously beautiful morning. The air was crisp, the sun was shining, and the Scottish landscape and farm animals were doing their usual beautiful thing. The hike was pretty simple and easy walking, and due to Tanvi’s stellar navigating skills, we didn’t get lost one single time. And I only slipped on the ice and busted my butt once. And I didn’t manage to (permanently) lose anything important, so I’d say it was pretty successful trip as far as hiking goes.
The casual walking allowed for lots of chatting, picture taking, and highland coo stalking. We stumbled upon a pasture of about 20 of the famous Scottish Cattle so spent a good bit of time just basking in the giddiness that accompanies a long haired cow spotting.
We even saw a baby coo! Who Jillian pointed out looks a lot like Snuffleupagus, and I have to agree.
In addition to Highland coos, we saw plenty of sheep, goats, horses, and regular old boring cows.
We had a great time winding through various Scottish farms, and it was especially relaxing since there were fences on either side that Bailey couldn’t get through which meant she had to behave herself on the trail.
We took a slight detour to explore the ruins of knock Castle, but at this point I realized I had dropped Bailey’s leash somewhere along the way and had to retrace my steps to find it. The girls and Angus went on without me, but Bailey and I still got some pictures from a distance.
The funniest part of the entire hike was crossing this small pedestrian bridge over the River Dee.
I leashed Bailey for the crossing since last time she went over a bridge, she tried to jump off. Since the bridge was icy and slick, she was super nervous crossing. She spread out her paw-toes as far as they would go and slowly army crawled the whole way across.
It was a far cry from her usual zealous and enthusiastic sprinting. For you Friends fans out there, Bailey usually reminds me of Phoebe when she runs.
Just complete overjoyed chaos. It was kind of nice to have her walk at my pace for a change. Of course, she quickly relapsed into her crazy behavior just as soon as she was off of that suspension bridge.
The last leg of our hike was a bit of road walking, which meant we had to walk single file and keep our pups on their leashes. Still, the riverside walking with sunset views over Ballater was pretty amazing.
We stopped for a while on our seventh and final bridge of the day to watch the sun sink down and take some final pictures.
On our way home, we stopped in the town of Banchory for some famous hot chocolate from The Chocolate Shoppe. If you read our Glen Tanar post, you know that Jillian and I failed miserably at this excursion back in July when we ordered Dark Chocolate instead of Swiss. To make the Swiss Hot chocolate, they line your glass with melted Swiss chocolate before pouring steaming hot milk over it.
They then place a Swiss chocolate disk over the milk which slowly melts and dissolves to make a spectacularly rich and delicious post hike treat.
It was the absolute perfect cap for a truly enjoyable hike with 3 of my very favorite girls and 2 of my very favorite dogs.
(And for all you Samson fans out there, don't you worry, he got his own 3 mile hike the very next day, which included a ride in daddy's new Defender.)