Monday, September 10, 2007

The Overview of Scotland 2007 Trip

23 Mar 2007

I decided that striving for organization is too stressful and if I wait until I'm organized to talk about my trip, then I never will. I'll give you a quick overview, then I'll post some longer stories later.

It was an exhausting schedule, but we saw and did so much that it was worth it. The tours started as soon as we landed. We packed Willie's van to the brim with people and suitcases. The poor person who sat in the last seat in the back took his life in his hands because around every curve a suitcase would come sliding off the pile and into that person's head. And there are a lot of curves on Scotland roads.

We did 2 distillery tours that first day, which should have been a sign to me of what the days to come would be like. But jet-lagged, excited, and a little car sick, I wasn't in any shape to pay attention.

We saw 14 distilleries in 9 days. Well, I saw 11 because I escaped one day to Inverness with 2 other women. We were teased about our "shopping" day, but we spent most of it just sitting in a cafe by the river, eating lunch and drinking tea. Lunch was a luxury on this trip.

The trip we signed up for had 2 free days--one in Inverness and one in Edinburgh. However, by the time we got there, those days had been cut and filled with more distilleries. It was, after all, a distillery tour, but I've never been good with things being black and white. It's a distillery tour, so you can't do anything else? No historic places? No castles? No time for shopping? Apparently not. But we've been promised that it will be different next time.

It is understandable, though, that we didn't have time for these extra things because Willie arranged some amazing tours. We only had one tour with a pretty 20 year old who knew her script well and had no idea she was talking to people who had been drinking and collecting scotch longer than she had been alive. She did a good job, she just had a tough crowd. The rest of our tours were given by distillery managers and owners and the tour fees were waived, mainly because they knew they would easily make it up on the amount of whisky we would buy. I'm not sure I have the guts to admit how many bottles of whisky we bought. Let's just say that we contributed greatly to the Scottish economy and that I'm going to have a lot of fun shoe and purse shopping in Italy.

I said this was going to be a quick overview, didn't I? Well, too late for that, so I'll try to do a quick rundown instead:

We went to Glengoyne and Auchentoshan the first day and spent the night at the Anchor Inn in Tarbert. The next morning we took the ferry over to Islay (first trip ever on a ferry!) and went to Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich and checked into the Lochside Hotel in Bowmore. We went to Bowmore on Saturday, then Ardbeg on Sunday (both nice enough to open on days they are usually closed). Sunday morning we were supposed to go to the Isle of Jura to tour the Jura distillery, but there was no one there to show us around--it's a small island, small place, and in the middle of changing distillery managers, I think. So, with the morning free, we went to services at the Round Church in Bowmore. On the way to Ardbeg, we stopped and took pictures of Laphroaig and Lagavulin, who were closed on the weekend.

Monday was a travel day to Grantown-on-Spey. We stopped in Lochfyne to shop at the whisky shop, then headed up through Glencoe and Fort William, then over towards Inverness. We invaded The Garth Hotel and got ready for the next round of distilleries.

Tuesday we went to Glenfarclas, where the owner George Grant gave us a tour and provided us with a lunch. After that we toured Tomintoul distillery. Wednesday went to Forsyth to see how stills are made, then we toured Speyburn, then we went to the Gordon McPhail shop in Eglin for a megatasting, then we went to Royal Brakla. Tired yet? On Thursday, everyone else went to Balblair, Glenmorangie, and Dalmore. Then, on the way to Edinburgh on Friday, we stopped at Glencadam. Saturday, our flight got cancelled because of snow in New Jersey, and the earliest they could get us back would be Tuesday. We found a hotel that had enough rooms (not an easy task) and got checked into the Airport Hilton. Then we had 3 days to explore Edinburgh and way too many pubs.

Next post, I will pick up on the days in Islay. The longest part of writing these posts is adding all the links and pictures. So, I may cut out some of the links. You're smart people, you can Google the things you want to know more about, right?

Of course, my incessant rambling has nothing to do with how long it takes!