Scotland: St. Andrews part 2

Once we had walked all through the Cathedral and gravestones, Dad wanted to visit St. Andrew’s Castle site before it closed so they did that…. While the 4 ‘kids’ walked way out the long pier just behind the Cathedral near East Sands beach …

So gorgeous to see St. Andrews from that direction …

For his souvenir, Andrew wanted whisky! We found a liquor store (though I’m sure that’s not what they call it)… and Andrew picked out a bottle of Edradour (the distillery he visited in Pitlochry) …. So fun.

Our parking pass was up at 5p … so we stopped by and got Andrew’s whiskey and went to meet Mom and Dad by the car.

Of course, once we got there we noticed that parking is free after 5p, so we could have stayed “out” without worrying – but no matter.

We were all getting hungry, the big sites were closing, and Andrew and I had to leave early to catch our flight the next morning … .

But first – dinner.

Being in a college town there were all kinds of pubs. Everywhere, practically. We had passed by one – The Central – with a photo of some delicious-looking bangers and mash advertised outside … so obviously we had to go there!

Dinner was … interesting.

  • The bartender was not super polite
  • But, some nice man gave up his seat so all 6 of us could sit together (and then disappeared so we couldn’t buy him a drink)
  • Both Kevin and Chelsea ordered meals that the pub was out of and had to change their order

But my bangers and mash were quite good! I wasn’t able to finish it… but I was also coming down with a cold, so no one else wanted to share it either …

Not much left to the trip … drove home. Finished packing. Earlyish bed.

Thursday night Kevin, Andrew and Chelsea walked down to town to the pub at the Blackwatch Inn for drinks and darts.

I had to bully my dad into reading in his bedroom so I could go to sleep, though.

__

From Andrew:

Our last night in Aberfeldy, Kevin, Chelsea and I walked down the road for one last night of drinks and darts to the Blackwatch Inn.

We got a small table right next to the entrance and immediately got a few pints and began talking with a young Irishman. He had been living and working in Aberfeldy for a year or so and was asking us how we liked the trip and Scotland and if we planned to go to Ireland at all. He gave Kevin and Chelsea some recommendations for Ireland and we talked off and on with him for an hour or so.

photo by Chelsea

It was warm and dark in the bar, a perfect complement to the cold drinks. We got a few games of darts in, it was fun playing with 3 people.

The pub is such a good place to relax and enjoy the company of close friends or family. Such a welcoming environment. It was a great way for me to end my Scotland journey.

______

All that’s left now is to go home! SO sad!

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Scotland: driving home from Inverness

Andrew and I drove back home to Aberfeldy, just the 2 of us …. Listening to 2 hours of Scotland radio, intermittent rain, glorious countryside (virtually no cities and very few towns on the A-9 from Inverness)…

…. taking photos of the silly-to-us-Americans road signs:

I love alone time, just hanging out with Andrew.

Especially since he was always willing to drive ….

Watch this 2 minute video of part of the drive below (complete with Andrew talking about the radio station)  …. It’s shot at sunset and frankly gorgeous….

or there are a couple more driving videos here:

Dinner:

When we returned from Inverness, hungry, our best option was to order delivery from “The Place on the Square” in Aberfeldy. So, pizza at 10p again, basically. But Dad and Andrew ordered some other food –just to try it. “Donner meat” and haggis! While haggis is apparently super touristy – it wasn’t even on most menues we looked at – Andrew still wanted to try it …

Blech.

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Scotland: Urquhart Castle (part 2)

So, after lunch at Urquhart … and after spending as much time as possible waiting for Kevin and Chelsea, we decided to go on to the Castle itself

The castle itself feels a lot bigger than it looks – especially since a couple of the towers still have working stairs. In one corner, you can go down a flight, or up 2 flights from the ground-level.

(Of course, the stairwells are extremely narrow and a bit claustrophobic – but that’s no reason not to explore).

The castle had one small gate, with a path leading down to the water. Easier to defend that way, I assume.

So we spent about an hour wandering around the castle ruins …. Until Kevin and Chelsea got there.

Then we spent another hour or so wandering around the castle some more …. Laughing, taking photos, and such until we were politely asked to leave by a castle guide.

Not even close to sunset, but apparently they close at 6p.

SO gorgeous ….. wait til you see the drive home …. coming up next!

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We left Culloden Battlefield around 1:30p or 2p and headed back west through Inverness to Loch Ness

I had cut up some veggies that we snacked on in the car … Mom had brought some “crisps” for more snacking.

Kevin and Chelsea were (finally) on their way north, so we told them to meet us at Urquhart Castle (on the North side of Loch Ness).

Great story about visiting Loch Ness from Jackie Travels

We had a *basic* ideas of where we were going (without the GPS), but again, the streets and sites are all really well signed so we didn’t have much trouble finding Urquhart Castle at all….

Unlike Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle, Urquhart Castle is still in ruins, on the coast of Loch Ness. When we got there it wasn’t super clear where to go to show our Explorer pass (to get into the castle). Of course, whatever we did was apparently wrong, and the employee was rather rude to us about it. Whatever. The only real rudeness on the whole trip (and the guy behind us in line kind of stood up for us).

For lunch, Andrew had gone to the grocery store to get stuff for sandwiches. We very precariously wrapped 8 slices of bread in paper towels and then in a plastic grocery bag, plus meat and cheese in their original packaging, plus cut up cucumbers.  We decided to wait to eat until we got to Urquhart Castle, and luckily they have a small café with tables inside and outside (where we sat). Mom even finagled some “rogue condiments” from the café so we had mustard and such to put on our sandwiches.

(rogue condiments)

Urquhart Castle is still in ruins – just a shell of what it originally was. Its previous owners blew up the Castle to keep the Jacobites from taking possession of it.

While there’s not a whole lot of historical information available at the castle itself, the visitor’s center features a 10-ish minute video dramatizing the castle’s history up until it was destroyed ~1692. Regardless, it is quite the beautiful location right on the lake….

 

Yes, Urquhart Castle is on Loch Ness. When we were planning our trip, pretty much EVERYONE asked us if we were going to visit Loch Ness.

Apparently, most “Nessie” sightings take place in the deepest part of the lake – just in front of where Urquhart Castle is situated.

Standing at the Castle, it’s easy to see how someone could fool themselves into thinking they saw something. Between the dark, deep water and the wakes of boats and birds I’m sure could talk yourself into anything.

Sadly, we did NOT see Nessie.

___

From RICK STEVES:

Sightings on Loch Ness

In July of 1933, a couple swore that they saw a giant sea monster shimmy across the road in front of their car by Loch Ness. Within days, ancient legends about giant monsters in the lake (dating as far back as the sixth century) were revived – and suddenly everyone was spotting “Nessie” poke its head above the waters of Loch Ness.

In the last 75 years, further sightings and photographic “evidence” have bolstered the claim that there is something mysterious living in this unthinkably deep and murky lake. (Most sightings take place in the deepest part of the loch, near Urquhart Castle). Most witnesses describe a water-bound dinosaur

(resembling the real, but extinct, plesiosaur). Others cling to the slightly more plausible theory of a gigantic eel. And skeptics figure the sightings can be explained by a combination of reflections, boat wakes, and mass hysteria. The most famous photo (dubbed the “Surgeon’s photo”) was later discredited – the “monster’s” head was actually attached to a toy submarine. But that hasn’t stopped various cryptozoologists from seeking photographic, sonar and other proof.

__

 

Kevin and Chelsea left Aberfeldy around 11a or noon … drove ~2 hours north … stopped for lunch and THEN got to Urquhart, with maybe only an hour or 2 til the site closed.

The other 4 of us had plenty of time to wander the grounds of the castle – especially since there weren’t really and placards or exhibits to read.

Mom walked down to the lake’s shore to get a small Ziploc bag full of sand. She gathered sand from the west coast (in Oban), from Loch Ness …. And then the next day she would get sand from the east coast (in St. Andrew’s). Each in its own labeled baggie…. And I imagine she got more when they went to Ireland! I don’t think she was totally positive what she was going to do with this sand – but I’m picturing some kind of decorative display in little jars.

 

The castle is “protected” by a grassy moat … or, rather, steep grassy hills … ideal for sliding or rolling down if you’re a kid.

 

 It was SUCH a gorgeous day …. More on the Castle itself next ….

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{the following words and photos are all Andrew’s}

I tried to keep in mind which turn I had made as not to get lost, but I purposefully took the smallest roads I could find. Just to test my driving skills and get ready for the week of driving ahead of me. Its’ one thing to be driving a foreign car in a foreign country by yourself, but totally different once you have passengers.

I drove past Loch Tay again and lots of sheep and old stone walls, green land and blue/grey skies everywhere I looked. It really cemented what it means to travel in another part of the world. Nothing was familiar but everything was beautiful and romantic.

I stayed off the main roads, choosing to test my skills on the extremely narrow and rural local Aberfeldy roads. The weather was perfect and the radio was playing obscure British 60s rock’n'roll. I drove past a small, single building church that appeared to be having a BBQ and craft sale. I pulled into the grass parking lot and was able to snag the last burger patty. For free since there was no buns left! haha!

I went inside the church and looked at the crafts for sale. Mostly baked goods. I ended up buying a loaf of carrot cake (my favorite).

I didn’t stick around long though, preferring to visit more of the Scottish countryside.

After I stopped at a church craft fair and BBQ, I headed out to Loch Tay. Originally I wanted to find a pub to go into and get a drink or two, but it was getting close to dinner time and I wanted to check on Amy.

I managed to find my way back to Amy with no problems. She had eaten a little bit of soup but was still ill. She told me her wacky duck story and then I headed back into town on foot to find some dinner.

The first restaurant I came to was the Black Watch Inn, also it had a pub attached. Perfect for when Kevin gets back!

I sat down, I had brought a book, John Darnielle’s ‘Matter of Reality’ and ordered a Guinness and oysters appetizer. For the main course I had some pasta and another Guinness. I took my time eating and drinking and reading. On my way out I walked through the pub to see what the vibe was like for later.

I walked back to the house, Amy was reading and feeling a bit better, but the other 4 had not returned. It was getting dark and I hadn’t driven in the dark yet, so I hopped back into the car to drive out to the Aberfeldy cemetery just on the outskirts of town.

Perfectly spooky!

The cemetery at the outskirts of Aberfeldy was very small, not so different from a lot of cemeteries we visited in Scotland. It was divided into 2 halves with a walkway up the middle. It was also almost directly across the street from Dewar’s Distillery.

I parked in the RV lot next to the cemetery. There was one camper there where the couple was screaming at each other loudly. Reminded me of the gypsies in those British movies.

I sat on a bench and read until the sun was almost down. I took some pictures, hoping to capture some ghosts – I don’t think I got any though. Other than the gypsies shouting it was quiet and I was the only one there.

After the cemetery I headed back around 9 and the guys were just getting back.

Naturally, Kevin and I headed to the pub. We put on our coats and walked down the hill to the Black Watch Pub. Its a narrow room with a long bench along one wall, a pool table and … a dart board!

We sat down and ordered a single Aberfeldy Whisky to start since its made and bottled right down the street. After that we moved on to beers and ciders. I got a Guinness and Kevin got some sort of cider.

The darts were free to play and it was a legit board with weighted steel tip darts.We just hung out and drank and threw darts.

It’s great being friends with my brother-in-law. I really enjoy his humor and getting to spend time with him.

The dart board was so close to the side of the bar that we missed a couple times and almost ricocheted off the bar. It was kinda embarrassing.

The bar was filled with locals as far as I could tell. We stayed until 12:30 or 1a and then walked back …  a little tipsy and ready to start our adventures the next day!

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{the following are all Andrew’s words and photos about how he spent Sunday}

We woke up Sunday morning prepared to spend the day driving around the lower Highlands. Amy was feeling sick after her shower though, so since we had two cars we wold the other 4 to take one car and head out and once Amy began feeling better we could meet up with them. They left around 10:30 or 11a I think. Amy lay down and fell asleep and I decided to venture into town and have a look around.

We hadn’t spent any time in Aberfeldy since we arrived on Friday early evening. I put on a coat and walked down the road and over the bridge and found a little wooded walking path that paralleled the road for a while and then cut into the center of town right outside a Black Watch Memorial site.

Aberfeldy is tiny.

Basically a main street that goes through town and a handful of side streets. Maybe 6 restaurants, a brewery (Dewar’s) and a pub. I walked around for about 20 minutes, the town was pretty dead as it was a Sunday morning. I made my way over to the Food Co-op to pick up some soup and Sprite for Amy and then headed back up to our lodgings.

Amy was feeling a bit better at this point so we decided to call the other 4 and see where they were at and we’d try to meet them. We hopped in the car and drove off. The driving really is thrilling! Everyone drives fast, or what seemed fast to me. And the roads are very narrow, only a foot maybe between passing cars and no shoulder to default to.

We drove long the windy road for about half an hour, passing Lock Tay and about a million sheep, but Amy started to feel sick again so we turned around. We had at least 2.5 hours one way of driving left and I didn’t want her to suffer all that time.

We got back to the house and I tucked Amy into bed and then decided to set off on my own solo adventure.

First I headed to Castle Menzies – just a short drive away.

One of the local attractions in the Aberfeldy area is Castle Menzies, just a few miles from the timeshare we were staying at. In fact, I think it was even on the same road. Just turn right out of the country club and follow the natural curve of the road. 10 minutes later I was at Castle Menzies – the first castle I’ve ever been to.

The castle sits isolated in the middle of a huge field, like a giant snaggle tooth. It seemed very big to me (but once we had been to other castles later in the week, Castle Menzies turned out to be pretty small).

I pulled up to the parking spots just outside the main entrance. It was a dirt lot and it had just started to sprinkle a bit.

There was guard or guide standing in the parking lot, dressed in a traditional kilt and he refused to move as I pulled up, which made for a tight squeeze for me to fit into a spot. Remember, this was my first real day of driving. I had only driven home from Pitlochry the night before.

I stepped out of the car and took a handful of pictures and then headed inside to the main entry/gift shop. I picked up a guide and paid my £8 or whatever and then made my way to the first room which was a dining hall/kitchen area. There was a huge fireplace and a long bulky wooden table.

Scattered around the facility were various historic items such as cookware, sword, shield, a bicycle. One of the more interesting aspects were the tiny gun/arrow portholes for guarding the premises from attack.

In order to investigate the remaining rooms and floors of the castle I had to walk back through the gift shop. Sneaky.

Most of the castle was accessible, it had recently been renovated, but there were a few dark corners and stairways that dead-ended Walking around by myself was a little bit creepy. Especially in the smaller rooms with peeling wallpaper and portraits of dead Menzies clan members.

My favorite rooms were the large entertaining halls. Vaulted wood beam ceilings and horrible pink wallpaper and furniture. I took a bunch of 360° pictures on my iPhone. The castle wasn’t very crowded for a Sunday. Just  few families wandering around. I took my time going from room to room, reading a little bit of the history, but mostly just enjoying my free time in Scotland.

I left the castle about half an hour after I entered it – probably 3p or so. The Castle is awesome, perfect afternoon lighting. I walked around the grounds taking pictures and then hopped in the car to find another adventure.

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Scotland: home sick

… and now comes the saddest part of our Scotland vacation: I got sick.

I don’t know if it was what I ate, or something about the heat in the plane, or what … but Saturday afternoon I was sick, and Sunday morning I didn’t feel any better at all …

Sunday (Aug 14) was all set to be a big day…. a long day of driving through the highlands to Glencoe and then possible to the west coast of Oban. Lots of driving and adventuring with no set plan of where to be….

Whatever makes me sick feels like food poisoning (including hot flashes and chills) and made me not really want to be out and about.

(Andrew did his own thing, which gets its own post later)

I spent the bulk of the day sleeping and reading and sleeping some more.

About 1p or so I started to feel a bit better and thought we’d be able to go meet the rest in Oban … but after 1/2 an hour of driving or so I asked Andrew to turn around …

He takes excellent care of me – didn’t complain at all about missing out on the adventures. Instead, he enjoyed most of the day by himself and even walked down to the grocery store to get me some soup…. Best husband ever!

Eventually, Andrew went off driving on an adventure by himself, and I slept some more….

I’ve noticed that cooling myself down helps me feel less sick, so I was sleeping on the floor by the back door with one side of the back door open…

When you’re sick, you know, you kind of doze in and out of being awake….

So …. there I am, alone in the house, sleeping, reading, sleeping, back door is open, sleeping …. and suddenly I realize there is a DUCK IN THE HOUSE!

This duck had wandered in through the back door – keep in mind, there was about 18″ of open space that this duck found in the whole of the Moness Resort campus. It somehow got 2 or 3 feet inside the house before I woke up!

Do you have any idea what to do when you have only *just* woken up and there’s a wild-ish duck in your home?

Yea, me neither.

Luckily, instinctively I sat up pretty quickly and that shoo’d the duck out the door… Which I then shut immediately.

Again, keep in mind I had only just woken up.

And THEN … the duck proceeds to tap on the glass door repeatedly with his beak.

Like he had some right to be in there and I had so rudely shut him out.

For a minute or 2 I thought maybe there was another duck somewhere in the house that the now-outside-duck knew about … .

It was a little bizarre … . and frankly, kind of creepy. I could definitely see some awful B-horror movie based on this premise.

DUCK INVADERS!

(or you know, something similar)

(eventually the duck wandered away, but I still didn’t feel like opening the back door again)

It was a nice slow, relaxing day … and I did end up feeling better by the end of the day.

Obviously, I still wish I could have gone to Oban and Glencoe.

Next time, I guess…

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Scotland: radio station

{The following is journaling from Andrew}

Anybody that knows me knows that I love music. It’s an obsession and it’s my life. I hate to not be listening to music, especially if I’m driving. I like that if I hear a song when I’m driving that in the future it will act as a trigger for me to remember a certain part of the drive.

I was thrilled to be listening to Scottish radio programming. Just to hear how different it would be from American radio. Scotland has a ton of great bands, especially for a country so small. The few radio stations that we listened to turned out to be truly eclectic.

My first real day of driving was Sunday and I spent hours alone in the car driving and listening to Heartland FM!

Of all the stations we listened to, Heartland was the best!

I heard Scottish bands such as Idlewild and Teenage Fanclub.

The first time Amy and I turned the station on, they were playing American Roots music – Johnny Cash and some other American acts. Shortly after that was a classical program that played songs about weather. Later in the evening was a gospel music program. Just very eclectic.

Whenever we listened and it wasn’t a genre-oriented program it seemed like the most random music – from cheezy British pop to death metal to 80s new wave all in 15 minutes.

There was even a ‘Requests’ program where the DJ would spend 5 minutes talking and listing off songs that people had requested. He’d name a song and say that it was a brilliant choice, and 5 minutes later play a totally random song.

THEN interrupt the song for more talking and listing …. It was hilarious!

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Scotland: 2 more Saturday stories

When we arrived on Friday, I read in the check-in materials that we needed to turn the water heater on. Every single outlet and appliance had an on/off switch – including the water heater.

So, since there would be 6 of us showering, I turned on the water heater ASAP Friday night.

But then Saturday morning ….

Both parents took showers.

Andrew took a shower that was starting to cool down halfway through.

I took a shower that was totally cold.

… and when I got out of the shower and Chelsea was in the shower we realized the hot water heater had been turned off.

It’s not clear WHEN but my guess is sometime before Andrew’s shower.

… and though she CLAIMS not to remember, Mom sure looked guilty when we realized the hot water heater had been turned off!

************

The following is quoted DIRECTLY from my mom’s blog … It’s a great story, and I know some of you don’t read her site:

I visited a few other stores, but nothing really jumped out at me that I HAD to have.  Then I spotted The Scottish Deli and their sign in the window that read “Scotland Deli of the Year 2011″.   Despite Scotland’s reputation for having relatively bland, boring food, I had to see what this little place had to offer.  Inside the cozy shop that could only accommodate 2 employees and a few customers I found some wonderful surprises.  The huge blackboard behind the counter listed about 30 different sandwiches available.  There were unique treats like Smoked Local Duck with Chilli Jam or Dunked Local Smoked Salmon with Star Anis & Pink Peppercorn Mustard.  It was such a creative variety that I was disappointed that it wasn’t meal time.  I vowed to bring the gang back to have a meal here or to order some of their picnic lunches to go.

The Scottish Deli - PitlochryThe Scottish Deli – Pitlochry,Scotland

While I was there I wanted to at least pick up some cheese and crackers that we could all enjoy in the room.  I browsed the various artisan cheeses in the case and asked the woman behind the counter to wrap up a Scottish Gouda as well as an Isle of Mull Cheddar to compliment the crackers I found. Then it was time to pay.   The register was in a corner of the deli area with a counter about 2 feet wide and there was already an older woman being served by the young man behind the counter.   She was having some difficulty with her bag and needed to have her items transferred to a new one.  Simultaneously I was paying for the cheese and crackers at the same small counter.  Soon the older woman was finished and walked out of the store.  Since I was waiting for them to give me my cheese, I stood at the counter, finalized my payment and looked at the clerks.

They looked at me as if to say, “I think we’re finished.  You can leave now.”.  But I still didn’t have the cheese that they had wrapped up behind the counter.

I’m sure I looked puzzled as I stood there and finally asked, “…my cheese?”

They both looked at each other and blurted out, “Oh no!  Mrs. McDougall must have taken it!”  The young woman tore out from behind the counter, ran out the door and down the street shouting for Mrs. McDougall while the young man apologized profusely about the missing cheese.  A few minutes later the young woman returned, a little out of breath, with my purchase.  She apologized again, we all had a good laugh and all was right with the world.

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Scotland: cooking at home

Driving back to Moness Resort from Pitlochry…. Andrew and I in the Mercedes…

Andrew and I got veggies for salad and a few more veggies for later in the week.

We got bread and butter so Andrew could have toast, a long with some coffee to use with the French Press. We also got some strawberries, peanuts and m&ms for on-the-road snacks.

The others got other breakfast food (cereal, yogurt, blueberries, etc)…

Which is actually good …

When we got back to the cottage we discovered that instead of a stick of butter, Andrew had picked out a stick of lard.

Lard.

Apparently it was in the same little section as butter and Andrew just grabbed the smallest cheapest he could find…. which turned out to be NOT butter.

Kevin supervised dinner-making …

He bought potatoes, carrots and steak …. all cooked and added to a can or 2 of French Onion soup…

Chelsea and my mom and I helped wash/cut the veggies – and advised a little on how to cook them – but otherwise the resulting stew was all Kevin.

We also made a green salad to go with the stew ….

Dinner at home on a Saturday night …. raining outside…

We didn’t have any cards (to play Shang-hai)… We didn’t have any internet (even though we had 3 laptops between the 6 of us) …

It felt like we were just marking time before our REAL vacation started.

2 more side stories about Saturday to share next….

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Scotland: Pitlochry (Saturday night)

So, while I napped in the car, my mom went shopping and the other 4 walked to the distillery … and it must have been quite the hike because they all 4 came back with muddy shoes.

While still in Pitlochry, we decided to find a grocery store and do some shopping for the week.

That’s one of the nice things about staying in a timeshare: you at least have SOME kind of kitchen and can save money by eating in during part of your vacation.

The grocery stores in Pitlochry and Aberfeldy are “food co-operatives” and are kind of interesting …. The produce departments are not very big, but they seem to be making a concerted effort to offer UK local food.

Other departments are also smaller than grocery stores in the U.S. … but I suppose that is to be expected.

On the short drive home, Andrew decided to BRAVE driving – on the wrong side of the road….

He made a little test drive down the street, turned around in another parking lot, and then off on the “real” drive home.

He ended up loving it and drove pretty much the rest of the week!

Next : Trying to cook dinner when we don’t know where the dishes are ….

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Scotland: Pitlochry, Whisky Walk

As I mentioned, Rick Steves described a ‘Whisky Walk’ in Pitlochry in his guidebook….

If you’ve ever suspected you were a Hobbit in a previous life, spend an afternoon hill walking from downtown Pitlochry to a pair of distilleries. The entire loop trip takes two to three hours, depending on how long you linger in the distilleries. It’s a good way to see some green rolling hills, especially if you’ve only experienced urban Scotland. The walk is largely uphill on the way to the Edradour Distillery; wear good shoes, bring a rain jacket just in case and be happy that you’ll stroll easily downhill after you’ve had your whisky samples.

The following words and photos are ALL from Andrew!

As Amy and Nancy headed back towards town from the Tourist and Information shop we visited, Kevin, Chelsea, terry and I headed east to find the beginning of Rick Steves’ ‘Whisky Walk’…

The young girl at the T.I. counter had instructed us to walk over the bridge and we’d come to a sign that read “Black Spout Trail” and that would lead us towards our first distillery destination which was Edradour Distillery.

We did as instructed, walked east over the bridge and came to a sign post with two signs. The one pointing up towards the woods and what looked like a very long dirt driveway read “Moulin and Edradour Paths. Black Spout Woods.” The sign pointing southeast and continuing on what seemed like a more traveled road, the main road, read “Edradour Walk”

Hmmmm …. Both signs point to Edradour in opposite directions.

The TI girl told us to look for Black Spout Trail and Black Spout Woods seemed like the most likely way to go … so that’s what we did …

… Turned left and walked up the dirt driveway, private-looking path and into the woods.

Shortly, we came to a fork in the road with a wooden sign, with an arrow …

<– It pointed the way to Black Spout (we had no idea what Black Spout was) and two stick figures pointing to Pitlochry.

The arrow <– written in heavy black, the two figures seeming to cheerfully be pointing the way to town. Or safety. We hadn’t been walking very far and were not sure we were going the correct way

<– towards possible doom … or –> towards safety.

We chose doom.

We continued along the wooded path. It was a beautiful day for such a stroll, a cool breeze gently blowing, some sunlight barely poking through the canopy of trees. Some light sprinkling made the path slightly muddy, but that was nothing too bad. the path was plenty green, with some berries for picking and munching on.

We crossed over an old wooden bridge and eventually another wooden sign. Again <– Black Spout and this time just one figure pointing -> towards Pitlochry. Seems his friend had been eaten or lost. We definitely chose doom.

We plunged ahead with no idea where Black Spout was leading us.

Eventually we came to the crest of the hill and an old wooden lookout, gazing on a large waterfall.

Aha! We must have come upon Black Spout. The water was a yellowish white and we guessed maybe it was part run-off from the (hopefully) up ahead distilleries.

We continued up the trail and passed a large open field (wheat or barley?) on our left. this narrow path came out on a regular street  and directly in front of us was the Edradour Distillery – Scotland’s smallest distillery.

Edradour Distillery is made up of just a few whitewashed brick buildings with grey roofs and red doors. The Mash and Stillhouse, the warehouse and the Old Malt Barn make up the original property with a store and a tasting room added on for tours.

From their website:

The Edradour Distillery has remained virtually unchanged since it was founded in 1825, nestled in a beautiful pocket of greenery on the banks of the Edradour Burn. The stream is so ancient that its name is thought to be derived from the Gaelic Edred dodhar, ‘the stream of King Edred.’

The four of us entered the store and purchased tickets for the last tour of the day which was starting in 5 minutes. The tour began in a small building with wooden benches, shots of whisky and a flatscreen TV. We watched a short video on the history of the Distillery and toasted with our small shots of Edradour. Then our guide – a young man with a limp and a cane – told us that the video had been made 20 or so years ago and that things hand changed just a bit in that time. Not drastically though. The basics of what make Edradour stand apart from the rest are still in tact.

Edradour is handmade still to this day, producing in a year what most of the large distilleries produce in a week. All whiskys produced here are single-malt Highland Scotch whisky.

From their website:

Like all malt whiskies, Edradour is made from malted barley, yeast and water. In the case of Edradour, there is a perennial source of pure spring water from the moorlands which rise a little way above the distillery. The nearby Edradour Burn is also important to the distillery, and is used as it has been for generations, gushing down over rocks and into the heart of the distillery to cool the wort.

The tour group left the viewing area and headed outdoors to start the tour proper. Our guide spoke very slowly, comically slowly and throughout the tour he would stand us beside a piece of machinery or hardware, tell us maybe what it was called and then slowly started “But …. we’ll…. come….back….to….that…..later” Usually we didn’t comeback to it. The first and only building we wntered was the Mash and Stillhouse. Here we were shown the Mornton Refrigerator (which is the only one of its kind still used in the industry), the copper stills (there are 2 of them)and the Wooden Mash Tun.

Our guide briefed us on the basics of these tools and how whisky is made and then casked for at least 10 years. The type of cask, or what had previously been stored in it, is what will give a particular whisky its unique flavor and characteristics. After visiting the Mash and Still house I thought we might visit the warehouse where the whisky is casked and stored. However we were led to the store where our guide pointed out particular whiskys for purchase.

The four of us figured that most of the other distilleries were also closing up at 5p so we hit the tasting room and sampled a handful of different Edradour varieties. All delicious and some smokier and/or more intense than others. We left the tasting room about 10 after 5 and confidently this time headed down the Black Spout wooded trail to town.

We met up with a sleepy Amy and cheesy Nancy at the car…

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Scotland: Moness Country Club

So one of the ways we were able to afford to go to Scotland this summer is the lodging – my parents traded their timeshare week for one in Scotland, so we had access to a little cottage that sleeps 6 for free (kind of).

They ended up getting a cottage at Moness Resort, a country-club-type-place just outside the tiny tiny town of Aberfeldy.

Aberfeldy is pretty much right in the middle of Scotland:

Sidenote: When we were planning our trip, a couple people in online forums told my mother that Aberfeldy wasn’t close to anything and we wouldn’t want to make the drives to Edinburgh or Oban or similar.

Little did that stranger know … We are hearty American West-coasters. We drive 45 minutes every weekend just to visit dogs! Or, at least Andrew does.

I for one didn’t find the drives out of the Aberfeldy obnoxiously long, and I rather enjoyed seeing the countryside.

But anyway …

Moness Resort is set up with a big MAIN building – with the pool, restaurants, lobby, etc – and a big Hotel-like building, and then all around the grounds are little cottages of varying sizes.

For the most part there are 2 units sharing a wall, not terribly secluded, but not right on top of one another either (you can see a little bit of example in the photos below)

The cottage we stayed in – a Courtyard Cottage -  has a front door and a back door, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a sofa bed in the living room.

As a ‘self-catering’ cottage we had a kitchen …. with a little dorm fridge, an oven/stove, microwave and (Andrew’s favorite) a French Press.

So, we learned how to use a French Press that week! Fun adventure :)

(image below looks out the back door, onto our little patio table set and the field beyond. Of course at the crest of the hill is a road, and then the field continues, but still… )

In the photo below: Standing in the living room, shooting toward the kitchen.

That window looks out to the front yard/driveway.

To the left of this photo, just out of frame is the little dining room (another window), and farther left beyond that is the master bedroom with adjoining (full) bath.

To the right in this photo, through that doorway, is the entrance hall. Also, just off the entrance hall, is a 3/4 bathroom (which Andrew and I shared with Kevin and Chelsea) and a second smaller bedroom (where K&C slept).

The photo below, shot from the kitchen toward the living room. To the right of this photo is the master bedroom, to the left the entrance hall.

That couch on the right in this photo turns into a sofa bed, but after the first night, Andrew and I ended up just pulling that mattress onto the floor and sleeping on that.

Some weird quirky things about staying in Scotland and about Moness in particular :

  • We were billed for the electricity we used
  • We had to keep the water heater turned on with a little switch in the kitchen
  • We ran out of toilet paper after a few days, and when we called the lobby for more they brought us 2 rolls. For 6 people.
  • Similarly, they only gave us 1 towel each – which would be find except got mildewy in the damp weather and they charged for replacements – and I think only 1 or 2 trash bags. For 6 people. For a week.
  • The internet was charged on an hourly basis, and we had to plug in an ethernet cord to the wall, and then to the computer to use it.

All just strange little details …. Nothing deal-breaking, of course. Just different than what we are used to. I don’t know if these are Scotland things or European or just this Moness Resort …. but it all certainly made American lodging feel magnanimous and generous!

All in all, the Moness Resort was a good place for base camp since we were traveling all over the country that week, but I certainly wouldn’t stay there for any kind of luxury close-to-home vacation (which is, I think, what they advertise themselves as within Scotland).

More next week about our REAL adventures in Scotland …

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Scotland itinerary

As you read this, we’re probably on a plane to Scotland!

SCOTLAND!

I’m excited! My 3rd trip and Andrew’s 2nd trip to Europe …. (wish we could go every year) … .

I was trying to express to a co-worker how excited I am!

Loch Ness Monster! Ghost-walks in Edinburgh! Historic battlefields!

Ok, actually … that makes Scotland sound frightening :)

So you can follow along ….

Here is our *tentative* itinerary:

8/12 – Friday:

  • arrive about noon, Edinburgh airport
  • Kevin picks us up
  • check-in to timeshare late afternoon
  • check out Aberfeldy, maybe grocery shopping, maybe bed EARLY

8/13 – Saturday: Pitlochry + Cairngorms National Park

  • forest walks/hikes
  • self-guided Whisky Walk and Distillery tours

8/14 – Sunday: West Coast of Scotland:

8/15 – Monday: Edinburgh

8/16 – Tuesday: Edinburgh

  • more along Royal Mile
  • St Giles Cathedral
  • Parliament Building
  • festival
  • another guided night walk?

8/17 – Wednesday: Loch Ness

  • Loch Ness
  • Urquhart Castle
  • Culloden Battlefield

8/18 – Thursday: St. Andrews

  • St. Andrews town guided walk
  • East Neuk (little fishing villages short drive away like Anstruther)

8/19 – Friday: A&A fly out at noon

  • back in L.A. by Friday night

Note: this is all tentative and since Andrew and I aren’t renting a car, we don’t have a WHOLE lot of control over how it will go …. But sounds like fun, no?

Posts will continue while we’re gone

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