As the days grow colder and shorter, we tend to find comfort in quiet nights snuggled up on the sofa; however, the beauty of autumn on a sunny weekend afternoon is too appealing, even to such a creature of comfort like myself – and so, before the evening dawns, I take pure enjoyment in a chilly outdoor walk, among the fallen leaves.
This particular October Sunday it was an easy decision on which of the Aberdeenshire’s parks or forests to visit. After more than a year of practicing my golf swing at the range (unsuccessfully, might I add), I was about to have my first actual game on a course – at Hazlehead.
It seemed like a no-brainer to go and assess the surroundings ahead of this milestone (and stressful) occassion – particularly that in the 3 and a bit years that I’d lived in Aberdeen, I had not yet managed to pay this mysterious place a visit. Too far on the city’s peripheries for me to walk there and back, yet too central to make the car journey worthwhile, instead of an out-of-town escapade – it never attracted me enough to make that exception. Until this autumn.
I stuck the postcode into the car GPS and – after first being led to a horse riding school – I ended up at the large (and free!) car park outside Hazlehead’s gates. It was cold, so even though I had had breakfast not long before then, when I spotted a large coffee shop just a few steps into the park, I made it my first destination.
Remembering The Park Café at Duthie, I was positively surprised upon entering, seeing the cosy decor, plenty of seating space (with a large function room to the side) and – probably best of all – a huge selection of sweets, sandwiches and coffees. The place was heaving with people of all ages, but the ever-present queue at the queue moved smoothly regardless.
Although tempted by the countless tasty treats in the pastry display, I only went for a mocha to take away – I was keen to keep my hands warm while exploring the rest of the park. This was served promptly and I was on my way… but I did have to stop outside to admire the enchanted feel of this spot, in the autumn context – and I bet it is as endearing in the summer, or under the winter snow.
Naturally, I couldn’t expect sheer perfection from a take-away drink, but the coffee did hit the spot nevertheless. The smooth concoction was rich in chocolate – so suitable for the surroundings – but hid a delicate caffeine injection, which got my brain going a notch faster; I certainly needed that when I entered the Hazlehead Maze (which proved great entertainment for a solitary visitor like myself, as well as whole families I bumped into trying to find my way to the centre and back).
All in all, I was satisfied with the overall experience of my first visit to Hazlehead and would definitely recommend it – both for the relaxing (and fun) outdoors, as well as the cosy retreat offered by its cafe.
Regular mocha (take-away): £2.50
Verdict justification: Very good coffee and great facilities for all types of park wanderers