Family Fun - Bennachie and the Last Bus Cafe


At the Mither Top - Bennachie, Aberdeenshire

A couple of weekends ago my nephew and favourite little person turned 3 years old (already!) and we got to mark it with lots of fun-filled celebrations. On the Friday evening - the day of his birthday - some close family gathered together to watch him open his presents, rock out on his drum kit and blow out his candles. On the Saturday his mum and dad hosted a wider circle of family and friends (both little people and not-so) for an epic Toy Story barbecue complete with bouncy castle and fully vegan menu!

Vegan child's birthday party
On the Sunday, mum, dad and I decided we would take the dog out and attempt to walk up Bennachie. It just so happened that Joel, Ashleigh and Lucas were planning a wee hike there too and so it was that we found ourselves having an impromptu day out together.

The Mither Tap

We met in the car park of the Bennachie Visitors' Centre - just south of the Chapel of Garioch - and set out on the trail leading to the Mither Tap.

Beginning in the woodlands at the bottom of the hill, Lucas was keen to get down and walk for much of this first part, keeping our starting pace nice and gentle - not because he walks particularly slowly for a three year old (he runs... everywhere!), but because he was fascinated by every fallen tree and bumblebee; collecting twigs like they were diamonds all the way along. It was refreshing to watch - a reminder of how easy it is to set your eyes upon a goal and plough on, never stopping to appreciate the treasures the rest of the journey might be offering up to you.

Golden retriever walking Bennachie

He ran out of steam eventually (who can blame him?!) and Joel and Ashleigh took turns to carry him on their backs as we continued the rest of the way, the hillside rising more steeply through the heather until we passed through the hill fort and scrambled over granite rocks to reach the top. 

The weather didn't exactly want to play ball, remaining rather overcast throughout, but we just about managed to quench our thirsts and snap a few pictures at the summit without being blown off! We were fortunate that the worst of the rain held off until we were heading back, though it did make the rocks rather slippy on the way down! 

Lucas was sound asleep for most of this part, bless him, and the rest of us arrived at the bottom feeling smug and accomplished, but a little soggy, cold and in need of some coffee.  

Family on Bennachie
At the Mither Top - Bennachie, Aberdeenshire
At the Mither Top - Bennachie, Aberdeenshire
Bennachie hill fort Family on Bennachie Mither Tap

From there, we all headed in the direction of New Pitsligo and the Last Bus Cafe, where Christy and Gordon came to meet us for some drinks and snacks.

It's a long while since I've been out to the Last Bus and it's changed owners since then, but it was still the quirky little venue I remembered, filled with recycled materials, intriguing trinkets and a record player spinning out some good quality tunes. 

Lastbus Works Canteen
Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo
Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo

They're only open on weekends nowadays (as opposed to their previous 24/7 format) and so the place was packed out with people making the most of it while they could. The menu is already fairly limited with the staff themselves saying that they're "not professional chefs" and so would rather do a few simple offerings and do them well, while their popularity meant that they'd run out of a few options by the time we got there so late in the day.

Still, there's something quite wonderful about being offered up a fully vegan menu, knowing that the staff adhere to the diet strictly and will have taken thorough care in the preparation of all the food.

Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo
Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo

Joel, Ash and Lucas ended up sharing a couple of vegetable burgers between them, which looked very tasty, before Lucas tucked delightedly into a rather delicious looking apricot and hazelnut sundae.

It seemed to be muffins all round for the rest of us, alongside our drinks, and I thoroughly enjoyed my latte and my warm blueberry muffin served, of course, with dairy-free ice-cream.. as if I could refuse ice-cream of any kind!

Vegan treats - Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo

Vegan treats - Last Bus Cafe, New Pitsligo

All the food was very tasty, but the atmosphere of the venue is definitely what makes it. It's such a fun place just to explore and admire all the little details - especially with a curious child in tow - and I love that there's such a unique place tucked away in the middle of the Aberdeenshire countryside. I'd definitely recommend heading along one weekend to check them out!

Last Bus Works Canteen, New Pitsligo
Lost cause and abandoned dreams corporation
Last Bus Works Canteen, New Pitsligo

All in all a very fun weekend! Time with family is always good time to me. :)


The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail


Sudger Wullie - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Sudger Wullie by Lesley D McKenzie

Do you remember when the Wild Dolphins came to town a couple of years ago? A collection of uniquely decorated dolphin statues, they spent the summer scattered across the city of Aberdeen waiting to be tracked down by kids - or just big kids like me - before being auctioned off in aid of the ARCHIE Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation for some £531,000!

Well, this year Dundee has followed suit and developed an interactive statue trail of its own!

GG Shelagh Swanson - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
GG by Aberdeen's own Shelagh Swanson

Taking inspiration from Scotland's much loved DC Thomson character - currently celebrating his 80th year - the Bucket Trail is made up of 55 5ft tall sculptures of Oor Wullie sat on his bucket; each one individually decorated by its own designer or artist. 

The statues are dotted around the city of Dundee just waiting to be discovered, with a handy trail map or phone app available to help track them down and score them off your "bucket list" (boom boom!). 

Night on the Toon - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Night on the Toon by John Carr

Cowboy and Minecraft - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Wullie the Cowboy by Deven Bhurke and Minecraft by 4J Studios

In addition to these, 10 Oor Wullies have packed up their bags and set out on a little summer tour around Scotland. Currently vacationing at Marischal College in Aberdeen, the statues will stop off at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth and Stirling before returning home to join the rest of the gang in Dundee.

Scotspirit and Strawberry Thief - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Scotspirit Wullie by Vanessa Gibson and Strawberry Thief by Ellen Brown

Boozy Cow and Wullamyn - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Boozy Cow Graffiti by Lynsey Henderson and Wullamyn by Sally Adam

I popped down to Marischal College with a friend to visit the Tour Wullies in a very sunny courtyard earlier this week. The place was bustling with young families posing for pictures on the empty bucket ..and while it might have made us the oldest visitors there (without kids in tow), it was lovely to see so many people engaging with these pieces of art. 

From a soldier to a cowboy; Wullie Wallace to another Scottish icon - the Tunnocks tea cake; each one is cleverly crafted in its own unique way. Besides just being a lot of fun, they're well worth visiting to appreciate the artistry and read the ideas and background story behind each one!

Wullie Wallace - Oor Wullie Bucket Trail Aberdeen
Wullie Wallace by Mandii Pope

You best be quick if you fancy seeing them in Aberdeen as tomorrow is the final day of their visit.

The other 55, however, are in residency throughout Dundee until August 27th. Perhaps it could make for a nice little day trip and a good way to occupy the kids!

All of the sculptures will be reunited at the end of the summer, ready to be auctioned off on September 13th, once again in aid of the Archie Foundation, specifically towards their appeal for a new operating theatre at Tayside Children's Hospital.

The app is free to download and there's no charge to engage with the trail, but donations to the charity can be made at some locations and through their text service, details of which are available on their site.

Have you managed to score any off your bucket list yet?