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A drive through Aberdeenshire (with independent shopping and vegan food)

I've said this before about the place I grew up: Aberdeen, well, I don't live as an adult for a reason - but Aberdeenshire? Stunning scenery and quaint towns with beautiful independent stores. That's why even though I grew up on the border of the city/shire I prefer to say I'm from the latter. 

In the past fortnight I've visiting at my parents' house in their village located not far outside of the Granite City. During this time me and my mum went on a drive starting in Cults and ending in Inverurie - if you're familiar with the geography of North-East Scotland it won't surprise you that this drive took five hours (including stops to explore). Along the way I re-visited childhood haunts, and discovered small settlements I didn't even realise existed. 

We started off in Cults. Cults is an upmarket suburb of Aberdeen that sticks out to the west of the city and while it is mainly a residential area there are a few gems on the main road. I reviewed the Terrior Deli two years ago (and it's still there) but this time I took more notice of the Chest Heart & Stroke charity shop a few doors down. I've been here a few times and it usually has some nicer pieces than other charity shops. This time I picked up Fault in Our Stars for £1 and a blazer/cardigan (that was originally H&M) for £10. Charity shops can be hit or miss, but this store is definitely a hit. 

Moving on to Bieldside. A while ago through the Vegan Aberdeen Facebook Group I became aware of a health food store located in the Newtown Dee Village. This is a tranquil community with assisted-living for individuals with learning disabilities. I had always been aware of it but had never known about the café and shop open to the public. I'm glad I stopped by because this is a big shop and contains some brands I've only been able to buy online, and less common vegetables. The coffee shop also has soya milk for any vegans wanting a caffeine fix.

After this we headed out of the Aberdeen City boundaries and sped onto the countryside. 

First stop was somewhere my mum rates highly but I didn't know about, Milton of Crathes. This is just outside of Banchory where independent shoppers will find homewares, pieces of original art and independent jewellery among beautiful views of the River Dee. Now while my childhood had closer links to the River Don (Aberdeen actually means the "mouth of the Dee and the Don") I think the River Dee is just so much more scenic: it remains wider for longer and more has been done to pave dedicated walking paths along its banks.

After this we headed into the nearby town of Banchory for...a trip the garden centre. While gardening isn't a hobby I've managed to fully embrace because, well, I don't have a garden; I do still love making a mental checklist for that future 40-acres I'm planning to own. 

However, we weren't just there to look at water fountains and decide on next spring's flowerbed, we were here to try the vegan food. A while back I heard a rumour that a garden centre in Banchory were offering gluten free and vegan food in their restaurant. I didn't actually catch the name of the garden centre so we were driving out to Banchory with our fingers crossed. Luckily they had some Mediterranean Quinoa marked out as vegan. I know this isn't the most original vegan dish in the world but I'll never fault a restaurant for at least acknowledging alternative diets - especially when they're not located in a major city. My review is positive as the quinoa was perfectly done and contained enough extra ingredients to give it flavour and the ability to fill a stomach.

When we got in the car my mum announced she was taking me into the centre of Banchory to a place that would definitely stir childhood memories. As we drove up the main street I recognised a park we used to stop while I was young - I had completely forgotten where it was. Bellfield Park is right in the middle of Banchory and has a small 'amusement centre' and traditional play park. I seem to remember a giant slide at some point, however my mum thinks I'm imagining somewhere else - does anyone else remember this park in the 90s and able to clear that up?

To close our trip we looped round to Inverurie which is to the north of the city. Inverurie was somewhere I was spent time as a child and teenager - it's one of the largest towns and some well-known brands have opened stores, so sometimes we'd go shopping there instead of heading into Aberdeen. But I don't think I've been in the town since I stopped permanently living in Aberdeenshire (which was 2008!). Since it was just after 4pm we had to make the most of our time and immediately head to the shop that had been the entire point of including Inverurie on our drive.

That shop was Butterfly Fabrics on West High Street. As you know I've recently gotten in sewing and I'm always looking for fabrics no one else will have, so an independent store seemed like the best bet. Here I picked up this beautiful Scottie Dog/tartan fabric that you can see below.

I also used this opportunity to do some Pokemon hunting. There's a square in Inverurie with a few stops and the lures got turned on at roughly 5pm. While the city of Aberdeen proved better (read my post on that!) if you're living near Inverurie it shouldn't be overlooked.

Do you know of any other hidden Aberdeenshire gems? 

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