On the home stretch we left Skye, this time across the Skye bridge heading north. No more ferries for us!
The adorable and beautiful village of Plockton was recommended to us so we took a wee detour to visit. So worth it! Just when you think it would be impossible for Scotland to get any prettier it goes and proves you wrong.
We saw the famed Loch Ness and examined tartan in the gift shop before continuing to our home for the next three nights in Dufftown. It is Dufftown where Peter’s favourite distillery lives. Glenfiddich is huge and it was such a great idea to take a tour here. We were allowed to enter one of the warehouses to see stacked barrels and the solera vat and see things working generally on a much larger scale.
We, of course, ended up meeting a New Zealander in the Glenfarclas distillery. He told us to come to the regular Dufftown whisky tasting night happening while we were in town and when we arrived back at the BnB our host asked us unprompted if we’d like her to book tickets. It turns out this was quite the place to be and so much busier than usual they had to turn people even after bringing out extra tables.
We learned about up and coming, or perhaps back from the dead, distillery Ben Riach and had a great night of tasting and nosing finished off with a competition. I got through to the semi finals of the nosing and Peter got right through to the final! We were quite chuffed that one of ours did so well.
Dufftown also gave us the gift of haggis. A wonderful traditional restaurant complete with giggling young scottish lasses served up haggis inside a mound of neeps & tatties (mashed tunips and potatos!). It wasn’t too bad actually, strong flavours that went well with a pile of mashed root vegetables. Not something I would go out of my way to cook, but definitely something I would eat again.
My favourite part of the Speyside stay were the gardens at Glen Grant distillery. A path winds its way through an incredibly maintained Victorian garden complete with stream and woods and hidden woodland animals.
Most exciting for me at this point of the trip was a chance to drive through Harry Potter country. The weather was a bit wet, notable mostly because it hadn’t actually been too bad so far!
Leaving the Isle of Mull we were back on Oban and onward to Fort William via Glencoe. Glencoe is the beautiful area where some of the scenic shots in the Harry Potter movies are filmed. Hagrid’s Hut in the Clachaig Gully, Loch Shiel, and the Glenfinnan Viaduct in particular. I’m a Harry Potter nerd so seeing these places IRL was pretty damn cool. The bus loads of tourists that arrived at the viaduct just after us thought so too.
I was taken aback by Mull. So obsessed with the idea of Jura that I hadn’t given the other islands much thought. And then I arrived and immediately fell in love.
I already loved the Ledaig whisky which comes out of the Tobermory distillery, but I didn’t expect the island to be so green and idyllic. Brightly painted buildings, the gorgeous Tobermory Bay, waterfalls, castles, and even a couple of cute ginger cats with their own book. The locally brewed beer was still shit. But that’s to be expected.
Another drive, another ferry, another Island. We left Islay for the mainland and then on to the ferry for Mull, stopping by the tiny village of Crinan to eat seafood served by Basil Fawlty on the way. The wharf at Oban was as far as we could venture at this stage of the trip. We would have a chance to look properly when we came back.
Way back in 2011 my Mum & Rod showed me a documentary on Jura Distillery in Scotland. Days later I had ordered a bottle of Jura Origin and shared it between 8 of us. I fell in love with the whisky and knew that one day I would have to go to the source.
For me this is when the idea to go to Scotland and see distilleries first started. Wanting to visit Jura was certainly one of the major deciding factors in doing a self drive tour instead of an official guide lead tour as none of those deemed Jura an Island worth visiting.
Though I was still pretty sick when we visited Jura I had a little of my taste back. We booked a tour and drove the island until it was time, taking in the fairly barren landscape and completely failing to spot any of the 6000 deer that outnumber the people 30 to 1. In typically Kiwi fashion the woman who served us lunch had a sister living in Queenstown. Perhaps one day I will go back and have a chance to hike the area.
We had decided not to buy whisky that could be found in New Zealand but I couldn’t resist buying some after the tasting session. A bottle of the Diurach’s Own which is still unopened 7 months later. I’m sure this winter will be the right time.
I arrived in Glasgow feeling like I might die. I got a little sick before leaving for Melbourne, I got proper sick while in Melbourne, and then I had the worst flu I’ve ever experienced. All while travelling approximately 36 hours on planes and through the horror that is Dubai airport.
But, Glasgow! I was in the UK for the first time! And although our travel companions had their flight cancelled and we were unsure if they would make it in time for our connections to stay in tact it all worked out.
We left Glasgow after resting the night and drove to Bowmore on the Isle of Islay. On the way we walked the park at Balloch Castle near Loch Lomond, drank beer at the Fyne Ales Brewery (because you can take the girl out of Wellington but you can’t take the Wellington out of the girl), explored the 19th century Inverary Jail, destroyed any energy reserves I may have had by walking a hill to take in Tarbert Castle ruins, and finally caught the ferry over to Islay where a bath and a night trying to sleep upright while sitting in a chair in order to keep my airways open awaited. Good times.
What better reason to go to Scotland than a profound shared love of whisky? Brendan, his parents, and I went for that reason in August 2015. We visited 24 distilleries in two weeks while driving around the country, particularly the smoky Islay region and islands.
Scotland is notoriously grey and rainy and though we visited in high season we weren’t spared those grey rainy days. There was however a lot of sun interspersed meaning that the fields were incredibly green and the flower baskets that hung absolutely everywhere were always bright and shiny.