Tag Archives: Scotland

Bonnie Scotland

16 Mar

I finally managed to get the photos organized from our weekend trip to see a wee bit o’Scotland. Apologies to the Scots, but I was so happy to hear “wee” and “bonnie” often…although they’re not likely to make it into my normal vernacular, as I can’t say the words without giggling, I simply loved hearing them used.  We did hear some Gaelic spoken, but occasionally it was when someone spoke English with the strong Scottish brogue that I wished for wearable subtitles.   The Europcar man who took in our rental car at the end of the trip told us that the Lowlanders can hardly understand the Highlanders – how they preserve these regional accents is curious to me considering what a small country Scotland is and that the news media seems to be national. I hope they can keep those local identities – the culture and language are richer for those differences.

In a word, Scotland was incredible.  We were lucky with the weather, and since we opted to visit in the least-touristy time of year, the only issues we had were some of the distilleries that we might have visited on our road trip were closed on the weekends.  We had three days to amble from Aberdeen to Glasgow, a right-hand drive rental car to keep things exciting, our GPS to frustrate us, and a loose itinerary that required we make nightfall in both Inverness and Oban to use the free hotel stays I booked.  Our “loose” itinerary included mandatory stops at Loch Ness, as many castles as we could find, and two distilleries from different whisky regions (Highlands and Lowlands).  The rest of the time, we wandered!  The main goal of the trip was to enjoy some natural beauty, as a most of our other getaway weekends while being in Europe have been to learn about the old cities with their history and culture.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We did learn a bit about Scottish culture by making an effort to learn about whisky. Scottish whisky is double-distilled (except for Auchentoshan, the lowlands distillery we visited), and depending on the region where it is made, takes on flavors from burning peat (e.g., Islay whiskies) or the barrels where it is aged (e.g., Auchentoshan whiskies).  The stills where the spirits are distilled are each a special shape, which apparently imparts something different into each whisky, as well.  We’ve really enjoyed getting to understand more about the “scotch” that until last September, neither one of us had been particularly interested in.  Now, Justin is particularly fond of Islay single-malt whiskies (which can be rather strong in terms of the peat-smoke taste that you almost feel like you just drank a campfire).

Justin and our wonderful tour guide at the Glen Garioch distillery are checking out the mash tun.

Justin and our wonderful tour guide at the Glen Garioch distillery are checking out the mash tun.

We stopped at Glen Garioch for a tour at 9:30am, when they opened, and the lovely woman in the shop blinked at us a few times as if trying to decide what kind of people we might be coming in so early…before whisking us around on a ‘wee tour and giving us a ‘wee tasting of their Highlands style single malts for free.  It was fabulous, and we were able to visit another distillery our last day to see a rather different way of making whisky.  We paid for the tour and tasting at the Auchentoshan distillery on our way back to the airport, and it was worth the price of entry, as the guide was extremely knowledgeable.  Those whiskies take more of their flavor from the casks and barrels where the spirit ages (either American bourbon casks or Spanish sherry wine barrels).  We’re learning to spend the time tasting the various flavors – and really, you need to, unless you are accustomed to gulping firewater.

Enjoying our wee tasting.

Enjoying our wee tasting.

Justin is demonstrating how to give yourself "monkeyshoulder" which is an actual condition that the whisky workers have after moving all of the wet barley around.

Justin is demonstrating how to give yourself “monkeyshoulder” which is an actual condition that the whisky workers have after moving all of the wet barley around.

We’ll be back.

%d bloggers like this: