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