Scotland 2005 Print


In June, 2005, we spent two lovely weeks in Scotland with our friends Art and Ellen Litman. A primary purpose of the trip was (1) for Art and me to visit our investment in two casks of Springbank whisky in Campbeltown, and (2) for me to visit my investment in a cask of Bruichladdich on Islay. We did so, and we saw some other sights too, among them the distilleries of some of our favorite whiskies.



0240 dsc_0608.jpg

We spent our first two nights in Glasgow and ate dinner our first night at a restaurant called The Red Onion, which was great and substantially different than The Red Onion in Peninsula Center.  We visited Glasgow Cathedral, a gorgeous example of medieval architecture, and then visited the Necropolis, a huge cemetery high atop the city, which was terrific for people who like visiting ancient cemeteries.  We had a delightful pub lunch at the Cathedral Bar across the street from Glasgow Cathedral afterward.  Click the thumbnail below to see photos from Glasgow.

From Glasgow, we drove down to Campbeltown, at the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula, so we could see Saddell Cove again and visit the Springbank distillery.  We saw our casks at Springbank and pulled a sample bottle from each to bring home.  If you click the thumbnail below you'll see photos of Saddell Cove--a GREAT place to stay via Landmark Trust--and the Springbank distillery.

A primary reason for the trip was to visit Islay--I had not been there--not only to visit our favorite distilleries but to visit my cask of Bruichladdich.  This involved a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride from Kennacraig, about 50 miles north of Campbeltown, and early enough that we decided we should drive up to Tarbert and spend the night there before going to Kennacraig for our ferry ride.  Tarbert is a picturesque harbor town where we enjoyed our stay at the Anchor Hotel, which had good food in addition to good rooms.

We left early the next morning for Kennacraig, port of embarkation for our ferry ride to Port Askaig on Islay.  We were concerned about breakfast since the hotel's dining room would not be open, so we had protein bars with us.  We needn't have worried.  The ferry had a full-blown kitchen and buffet breakfast on board, including everything from freshly fried eggs to Scottish bacon to toast to beans to coffee, etc., etc., etc.  It was a 2 1/2 hour ride and was a great way to get to Islay.

Upon arrival at Port Askaig, the north eastern port on Islay, we drove directly to Caol Ila distillery for our reserved tour.  Art and I were most interested in visiting Caol Ila since its whisky is hard to find and it's among the finest we know of in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings.  Some 95% of Caol Ila's production goes to Johnnie Walker so it stands to reason it would be hard to find. 

Following our tour at Caol Ila we checked in to Glenmachrie Guest House.  I had read about Glenmachrie in Time magazine a year or so earlier and since the writer had waxed rhapsodic about the food prepared by Rachel Whyte, the owner, I thought it was a place I needed to visit.  I wasn't disappointed.  Rachel's food was fabulous, Glenmachrie was a great place to stay, and I recommend it.

We drove out to the west side of Islay--which meant we were ultimately driving on a single track road--to visit a croft where the owners made walking and hiking sticks by hand from red deer antlers and local wood, and wove yarn from their own sheep.  I bought a beautiful hiking stick that is on display (and frequently used) in my collection of walking sticks.

The next day we hired Jeremy Hastings of Islay Birding to give us a tour of Islay and its flora and fauna.  Jeremy was terrific--a serious outdoor guy who knows Islay backward and forward and who showed us freshly cut peat (used by locals for cooking and warmth, as well as by industry for making whisky) and took us to the bay for birding and local scenery enjoyment.

The next day, Art and I dropped Sue and Ellen off at the local plunge so they could make use of the laundromat there while we went to Bruichladdich for a distillery tour.  Bruichladdich has become famous in Scotland as an establishment wholly owned by Scots and they are justifiably proud.  Following our tour there, we picked up Sue and Ellen and drove to the south eastern part of Islay to (1) have lunch and (2) visit our favorite distilleries--Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin.  Ardbeg had recently been brought back to life by Glenmorangie and not only is its whisky still fabulous, there is an excellent cafe there.  We ate lunch in its cafe and enjoyed the entire experience.  We also visited Laphroaig and Lagavulin, two more distillers of wonderful whisky.

Afterward, we drove back to Bruichladdich for an escort to the warehouse in Port Charlotte where our cask of Bruichladdich is maturing so we could see the cask and draw off a small sample.

After all this hedonistic travel, we bade sad farewell to Islay so we could continue our trip, this time migrating to Glenlivet in Speyside.

Click the thumbnail below for my photos of Islay.

We departed Islay from Port Ellen, on the southeast coast of Islay, returning to Kennacraig.  After arrival in Kennacraig we drove back to Tarbert to have lunch and walk around.  Here are photos from the ferry ride and Tarbert:

After lunch we drove up to Crinan to spend the night at the Crinan Hotel, a truly great place to stay in a beautiful locale.  The hotel is located on the last lock of the Crinan Canal, a nine-mile canal running from Loch Gilp in the east to the Sound of Jura in the west with thirty-some locks raising and lowering vessels to make the transition far, far shorter and easier than sailing around the Mull of Kintyre.  Click the thumbnail below to see the photos of Crinan.

We left Crinan the next morning to complete our drive to Glenlivet in Speyside.  On the way, we stopped first in Oban, but since it was Sunday the distillery was closed.  Too bad;  Oban is another favorite whisky of ours.  From Oban we continued on to Glenlivet and finding ourselves out of touch with the area and wondering about food, Sue came to the rescue by pointing us to The Airds Hotel--a beautiful hotel in a beautiful area with terrific food that saved our culinary lives for lunch.  After departure from Airds Hotel we encountered the famous Monty Python castle.  The thumbnail below will show you what I mean.

We finally arrived in Glenlivet at Minmore House Hotel, a really fabulous place in what was originally the home of William Grant, the founder of the Glenlivet distillery.  It is now owned by Victor and Lynne Janssen, who had relocated from South Africa and provided great food and accommodations.  Victor prepares excellent meals with able assistance from his son Marcus.  Clicking the thumbnail below will show you photos of our stay at Minmore House Hotel and the sights we saw in the area.

After three nights at Minmore House, we departed for Edinburgh.  After our first night there we drove back out to Rosslyn so see Roslyn Chapel and its Apprentice Pillar for the third time.  We (again) couldn't see the Palace at Holyrood because the royal family was due to arrive but we walked much of the Royal Mile again, enjoyed a lunch at The Witchery, and, of course, visited the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's headquarters and tasting room in Leith.  We also enjoyed another great meal at The Vintners Rooms.  When in Edinburgh, I recommend that you eat at least one meal at The Vintners Rooms, easily one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh.  Click the thumbnail below for photos of Edinburgh.

 If you'd like additional information on any of the places we visited after you look at my photos, send me an email and I'll be glad to help. 

Here's to Scotland and single malt Scotch whisky--I love them both!