Our last sunset paints the Edinburgh Castle golden making for a great ending to the last ten days in Ireland and Scotland.
We see snow at Loch Ness. It hails during our Glenfiddich tasting. There’s at least some rain everywhere else. But we also get our share of sunshine, and the fleeting ephemeral nature of it makes it that much more special. Here are the a list of the places in Scotland that we visited while constantly being teased by the clouds.
Cherrytree Villa Guesthouse, East Mayfield 9, Edinburgh
Inch Hotel, Fort Augustus*
Highlander Inn, Craigellachie*
The Holyrood 9A, 9A Holyrood Road, Edinburgh*
The Tea Rooms, Edinburgh Castle
The Elephant House, 21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh
The Piemaker, 38 South Bridge, Edinburgh*
Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, Argyll**
Mitchells, St. Andrews, Fife
Artisan Roast, 57 Broughton Street, Edinburgh**
Kilderkin, 65-67 Canongate, Edinburgh**
The Old Bell, 233-235 Causewayside, Edinburgh
Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire*
Fiddichside Inn, Craigellachie, Banffshire**
Highlander Inn, Craigellachie**
The Macallan Distilleries, Craigellachie*
Tomintoul Distillery, Ballindalloch, Banffshire**
Conan Doyle, 71 York Place, Edinburgh
BrewDog, 143 Cowgate, Edinburgh*
Royal Mile, High Street, Edinburgh
Stirling Castle, Stirlingshire
Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glenfinnan, Highland
Loch Ness, Inverness-shire**
Urquhart Castle, Dumnadrochit, Inverness*
St. Andrews Cathedral
The Old Course, St. Andrews
From mashtuns to worts to washbacks finally to distillers, we learn how malted barley, water and yeast are processed to become moonshine. Little flavor is added at this stage other than peatiness, while most of the taste comes from the maturation process. Maturation happens in wonderfully stacked casks, and the process which coopers use to create the watertight oak casks without anything other than natural wood and several metal hoops is a trade that takes decades to master. Master coopers practice their crafts for forty years and teach the art through an apprenticing system to new coopers. The distilleries we visit are beautiful, whether they are polished ones of Glenfiddich and Macallan or the more authentic kind like Tomintoul. After many years in the casks, the moonshine from before becomes Scotch.
Joe Brandi is Speyside. As the proprietor of Craigellachie’s famous Fiddichside Inn for the last fifty years and having lived in the region his entire life, Joe embodies everything great about this part of the world. His bar sits in a room no bigger than 200 square feet with a warming fireplace and a constant stream of locals sharing their stories of old. When asked what’s changed in Craigellachie over the years, Joe mentions only the disappearance of the railroad stop. Naturally, we ask when that happened, and he responds in 1968. In other words, not a lot has changed. Prior to tending to Fiddichside, Joe spent some of his youth working as a generalist at the Macallan Distillery and afterwards as a cooper making the beautiful oak casks in which the local Scotch matured. His shaky hands pouring semi-measured drinks, the pictures lining the walls of his family, and the rainbow of scotches from golden to reddish to dark wood, all create a memory of Speyside we will not soon forget.
I took a bit of a likin’ to a two-wheeled, four-seated bicycle surrounded by four spandex-wearin’ men and their posse of supporters. As per usual, the rain was falling, the clouds were looming, and the roads were narrow, but that didn’t stop these brave gentlemen on their mission to make a difference. The four were all Scottish veterans each riding for their own veteran-related cause, and they called themselves the Band of Bikers. In conquering their 800 miles in 8 days, the three front riders would rotate positions, while the caboose rider would stay put and manage the gears through the hilly and often treacherous terrain.
Part of my attraction to this group might have been my upcoming Bike & Build journey of 4000 miles over several months covering the entire continental United States, all the while raising money and awareness for affordable housing. If you feel tempted to support me in my pedaling for affordable housing, you can do so here. Thanks!
Rolling hills, little cottages, and greenness,
The sheep, the cows, and a fair bit of rain,
We start in Edinburgh, go to Loch Ness
See a monster from the road’s fast lane.
Castles in Edinburgh and in Urquhart,
A night’s stay in a Fort Augustus B&B,
With only a little sun, a work of art
Even if it’s all a tad bit windy.
And then there’s the haggis, the meat pie,
The Scottish breakfast, and the chips,
Not great, but not bad, I won’t deny
With which we all quickly came to grips.
JK Rowling’s favorite coffee shop,
Her inspirational cemetery just next door.
At the train to Hogwarts, we make a stop
As we drive our cherry red Peugeot.
Hag ·gis: a traditional pudding made of the heart, liver, etc., of a sheep or calf, minced with suet and oatmeal, seasoned, and boiled in the stomach of the animal.