Castle Frazer, Scotland

A Homestay in Scotland’s Aberdeenshire

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Digging into the archives, I came across some photos from my time living in Scotland in 2003. (Ignore the chipmunk cheeks to follow. I enjoyed the Baked Potato Shop just across the street from my flat and the discovery of Strongbow cider about 15 pounds more than I should have.) When it came time to do a long homestay weekend through my American study abroad program, my friends were shipped off to the Lakes District or Stirling, and when I found out I was going to a farm in extremely rural Scotland, I was less than pleased. At first.

But that was before I found out I’d been staying with Edna Penny. (And yes, she was every bit as charming as the name would suggest.) And Edna definitely did not live on my definition of a farm. She had a lovely country home with a living room, two dining rooms, four bedrooms, a kitchen and two luxurious bathrooms.

Highlands, Scotland

Two other girls from my Butler program—Colleen from Vanderbilt and Lauren from Connecticut College—were also staying at Edna’s, and we even each had our own room with huge beds. Edna was this tiny, hip lady pushing mid-70s; she was a firecracker with more energy than the three of us combine, racing us all around the surrounding area throughout the weekend and cooking us ridiculous amounts of starchy foods. Edna had five grown kids and about 100 grandkids it seemed, and by the end of the first day we were already calling her Grandma, too. But she was the cool Grandma, the one who kept us up past midnight, chatting tirelessly and making sure our glass was always overflowing with red wine.

After the first day getting acquainted with Edna, we met up with the other dozen students in our program and their host families to explore the Inverurie area. Edna lives in a town just outside of Inverurie called Insch that had something like 10 residents to its name. Or rather, 1,630 people, says Wikipedia. But I still think that’s a stretch.

Highlands, Scotland

First, it was off to the Stone Circles of Daviot.

Highlands, Scotland

Then, to Castle Fraser. One of Scotland’s greatest draws is that you can’t drive far without running into a castle. This was far from the only castle we’d visit while living abroad.

Highlands, Scotland

That afternoon, we all went back to Edna’s for a huge picnic lunch, then that night it was off to her daughter Ann’s house for an even bigger feast. And some musical entertainment by some of my other friends in the Butler program.

Highlands, Scotland

On our final day in Insch, Lauren, Colleen and I spent the whole morning and afternoon alone with Edna. And the woman had no qualms about dragging us out of bed at 6am to attend “the largest car boot sale in the Europe” (allegedly). Still, like every other flea market, it was a whole lot of junk, people’s smelly old shoes and yellowing comics originally purchased for a penny, and nothing worth toting back to the States—but a memorable experience nonetheless.

Highlands, Scotland

Then, Edna took us Archaeolink, a geologic theme park, which I’m pretty sure was meant for kids half our age. Or maybe not, seeing as it didn’t take us long to assume the roles of modern day Vikings.

Highlands, Scotland

Inverurie was spectacular, and I will never forget Miss Edna Penny. But one thing left me bummed: During my time in the Highlands—and my subsequent visit later that fall—I was were never able to track down an Heilan’ Coo (or Highland Cattle for you English speakers). All the more reason to book a flight back to Scotland, stat, I suppose. (As if I needed yet another lure back to my favorite country.)

COMMENTS
  • April 7, 2011
    SVV

    You were a nut even then. Loving the armour and HIDE that you are wearing..

    • April 8, 2011
      Kristin

      You wouldn’t have married me if I were normal!

  • April 8, 2011

    You know, this is going to sound crazy as I have seen tons of photos of you on your blog and of course met you in real life in sunny SF, but despite all that you look so familiar to me in these old photos!
    I’m wondering if I ever bumped into you before, either in Europe or the UK, I was in Edinburgh in 2003 with my cousins for a while on holiday and of course you were all over Europe round then too, so maybe we met way back in the days before blog! :0)
    Also, loving your poses with the Viking armour :0)

    • April 8, 2011
      Kristin

      I always thought you looked super familiar, too! Hrmmmm…were you by chance traveling around the continent for the second half of 2003? Maybe we had a pint or met at a cafe or something =)

      • April 11, 2011

        Lol, I was around and about all over the place in 2003 so we might well have done! How funny :0)

  • April 8, 2011

    What an awesome experience. Edna sounds wonderful, and her house/castle is divine. You make a great Viking.

  • April 8, 2011

    I read your link to the Circle of Daviot – very unusual (still not sure I get it). Love the gorgeous castles.

  • April 8, 2011

    How fun! Edna Penny sounds like a trip!

  • April 8, 2011

    sorry you mised meeting the hielan coo — but indeed, all the more reason for a trip back.

  • April 8, 2011

    I know the point of this post wasn’t to make me crave cider at 10:40 am..but…I need a pint in a pub STAT.

    • April 8, 2011
      Kristin

      Cider, like chocolate, is acceptable any hour of the day.

  • April 8, 2011

    OH.. How fun! I love looking back at the old pictures of my trips in the past. Love the castle!

  • April 8, 2011

    Funny you should mention Inverurie and Insch – I’ve recently been looking at them as bases for my exploration of castle country next month. I think we’ll be in Ballater though.

    • April 8, 2011
      Kristin

      That’s funny! I honestly could not remember the names of either, but found an email from 2003 to my mom all about my stay, ha =)

      I’m super jealous you’re spending such a long period of time in my favorite country!

      • April 8, 2011

        My favorite country too – that’s why I decided to dedicate myself and my business to writing about it. Here’s hoping it pans out!

  • April 8, 2011

    Ooooh, Scotland – we’re unbelievably excited for the couple months we plan to stay there this summer! Kali is obsessed with castles (ok, I might be too), so that might be a huge part of the draw for us. 🙂 Great photos!

    • April 10, 2011
      Kristin

      You’re spending A COUPLE MONTHS there? Sigh. Swoon. Jealous. You’re going to have an amazing time! Summer is the only time I’ve yet to visit Scotland–I lived there in fall and winter and all my subsequent visits have been over Christmases or in March or in August, which shockingly was 40 degrees and not at all summer-like. Here’s to hoping you have warm weather and clear, blue skies!

  • April 8, 2011

    I’m heading to rural Scotland for… the whole summer. Ha! I’ll be on the opposite coast, seeing my boyfriend’s hometown and meeting the family. Should be interesting. I will most definitely request a stop a boot sale!

    • April 10, 2011
      Kristin

      Majorly jealous! Along with the car boot sale, I sure hope you get to see Isle of Skye…in all the times I’ve visited Scotland, I’ve so wanted to go there and if you’re already going to be on the west coast, it will be such an easy trip for you!

      • April 10, 2011

        I hope I get to go there as well… Scotland is not a place I ever dreamed of going so I’m just starting to discover whats there to see (other than Nessie, obviously). Should be an adventure! I just really, really do not want to eat haggis.

  • April 9, 2011

    OK, that first castle shot is INSANE!! Scotland is so on our list but I’m never up for the bad weather which is silly. Need to get on it. Regardless, fun walk down memory lane.

    • April 12, 2011
      Kristin

      I’m so with you on that–it’s why I don’t love living in San Francisco and also why I didn’t move to Scotland permanently, which was always a plan in the back of my mind because I love that place so dearly.

      In that case, ONLY visit in June or July. Even when I went back for the Fringe Festival a few years ago, the high that week was mid-40s…in AUGUST.

  • April 10, 2011

    Ah, Scotland. England’s drunk uncle. Kyle and I have always said that someday when we do our adventure to Europe we’re not going to do Paris, Milan, and Greece like everyone else, we’re going to do Dublin, Glasgow, and Berlin!

    Love the pictures!

    • April 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Judging from what I know about the two of you, I think you’ll do well in Ireland, Scotland and Germany…if nothing else, you’ll drink them dry =)

  • April 10, 2011

    I think you won the jack pot when they handed out the rooming assignments! Not only did you get a fantastic place to stay but you had an amazing host as well. All those pictures made me want to jump in an airplane now and go to Scotland. This post is a great memory for you and your friends.

    • April 12, 2011
      Kristin

      Thanks, Debbie! I totally lucked out with my host mom–though truth be told, I don’t remember meeting a Scot I didn’t like and all my friends had great host families, too. I think they’re just in general a good-natured, fun-loving people! Can’t complain about that.

  • April 11, 2011
    Joan

    LOVE the photos! you definitely have an inner Viking to channel. I don’t see any chipmunk cheeks btw. You look lovely as always.

  • April 11, 2011

    Too cute that last photo!

  • April 12, 2011

    ohhhhh Scotland ..i heard thats a great place ..Loved your photos ..lovely castle

  • February 27, 2012

    Glad you discovered super Scotland. Funny, though – where’s the mist and rain!! You must have been there during some pretty unusual weather cycle. Whenever I go it usually rains all week! Still love it though.

  • September 14, 2012
    Vicky Goodenough

    Just discovered your blog (love it!) and I just had to comment on the Scotland one, as I live here on the east coast (St Andrews/Dundee area) 🙂
    If you want to see some highland cows, then I recommend Fort William- they walk around all over the place, and you can walk up to them at the foot of Ben Nevis – UK’s highest “mountain” if Iou like hiking and outdoor activities/walking then this area if deffo the best. Beautful place with lots of mountains, lochs, and wilderness, if you go up the road an hour or 2 west, you come across some remote white sandy beaches and scenery you would think would be abroad, lovely places to camp. And of course all the west islands.
    If you like city life, Inverness and of course Edinburgh & Glasgow. Perth area has a lot of castles 🙂
    With regards to the weather, there really isn’t a good month to come anymore, the past few years there has been many good clear sunny days in spring time, particularly April/May time. Winter, or going into spring is excellent for snow topped mountain scenery in Fort william/Aviemore/Braemar, I’ve got loads of photos from spring time. It will be very cold mind if you think the 40’s aren’t very warm :/
    West is the best in my opinion though 🙂

    • September 14, 2012

      GREAT timing, as I’m actually heading to Scotland on Monday with my mom and sister =) I couldn’t be more excited as my last visit was in 2006!

      We’re doing Edinburgh–>St. Andrew’s–>Fort William–>Glencoe–>Portree–>Inverness–>Aviemore–>Cairngorms. There were a million and one other things I wanted to show them in between, but given our limited time (eight days), I thought this would give them a taste of the country I love so much!

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