Scotland quickly impressed us, reminding us in many ways of New Zealand, another country that we love. It’s sparsely populated with more sheep than people; the landscapes are beautiful; the single carriageways lack shoulders and there’s the occasional one-lane bridge that must be shared with oncoming traffic. The people we met were warm and welcoming. After a rainy introduction, we were treated to a rare stretch of pleasant, cloudless days that the locals found to be a wee bit too warm for their liking. We toured some of our favorite highland whisky distilleries where the single malt Scotch tastings provided an inner warmth unmistakably their own. All in all, we’ve been enthralled by the Scottish warmth.
We started out in Glasgow and found it to be a convenient and functional city to spend a few days in.
We made a visit to the charming town of Stirling with its historic castle. While not all Scottish towns have castles, we found Stirling to be representative of the various villages that we visited.
We did some hiking in Cairngorms National Park covering the Carn an Fhreiceadain trail that originates from Kingussie, which is located in the heart of the park. The curious sheep kept an eye on us while we were engrossed in the beautiful landscapes that surrounded us.
Scotland is well known for their outstanding whiskies. We had the opportunity to tour 2 of the world’s finest single malt whisky distilleries: Balvenie and Glenfiddich. The latter is set up to accommodate lots of tourists and does a nice job of handling the crowds. In comparison, Balvenie does very few tours and we were fortunate to schedule one through one of Elizabeth’s connections. We experienced all aspects of the single malt distilling process including the malting of the barley and the craftsmanship of coopers making casks. We were amazed that we were allowed access to areas of the operation that US safety regulators would never permit. In the warehouse, they let us taste samples drawn from various casks dating back to 1974 to understand how maturation in American and European oak each imparts different flavors and characteristics. In a word, the tour was INCREDIBLE. As for the whiskies, they are outstanding. Our favorites were the Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask and the Glenfiddich 18 years old.
We benefited from some of the finest weather possible on Scotland’s north coast. The small seaside town of Lossiemouth looked like a world-class beach resort given the great weather.
We spent our first 2 nights at the Holiday Inn Express Riverside in Glasgow. The wifi was fair. There was no fitness center but “The Gym” was in walking distance with reasonable daily rates. The a/c was good and they provided a decent breakfast.
Our next 2 nights were at the Ruthven Steading B&B in Kingussie. The countryside setting was beautiful. There was no a/c but it cooled down at night. The wifi was good and they provided an outstanding cooked-to-order breakfast. We enjoyed exchanging travel stories with our engaging hosts Julie & John.
We spent 3 nights at Ardvorlich B&B in Elgin. There was no a/c but they provided a small oscillating fan that cooled us off. The wifi was good most of the time. Lynn provided a fine cooked-to-order breakfast each morning. We took advantage of the common kitchen, limited to just a microwave for cooking, to eat in at night.
Food And Drink:
We enjoyed some of the traditional Scottish dishes like Stovies. We also found plenty of good seafood along with a nice diversity of food including Italian and Indian.
We sampled the local boutique whiskeys and craft beers and found a few to be exceptional.
We continued our rental of the Peugeot 208 Diesel from Avis and it served us well averaging over 50 miles per gallon.
We extend our gratitude to Brenda Krampert of William Grant & Sons for setting us up with the tours of Balvenie and Glenfiddich Distilleries. We had a wonderful day and gained a deeper appreciation for these fine spirits. Thank you so much Brenda!
For Your Amusement:
We’re still getting used to the U.K. slang used on products such as these.
Highlights: Hiking in Cairngorms National Park and touring the whisky distilleries.
Next Up: We’ll be spending the final week of our journey exploring the west coast of Scotland.