Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Cairngorms and Glamis

Today started with a bump; double-beds aren’t as wide as I’m used to so when the alarm went off, I rolled over and promptly fell out of bed: Not an auspicious start. Overnight, clouds had come in to give the loch a brooding, melancholy feel but the temperature was actually quite pleasant. In the end the forecast rain did not materialise and we had a temperate, dry day.

After a lovely breakfast we made an early start for the Edradour Distillery, taking the ‘scenic’ route along the south side of Loch Tay. The single-track road hugging the loch shore was in pretty poor condition and took forever to navigate but in the end we got to the Distillery pretty much on time, shortly after it had opened. We took the tour and it was very much as I remembered it, with the exception that they’ve now introduced a cream-liqueur as well as the basic whisky products. In the shop I splashed-out a little and bought a bottle of their 22-year old as well as a bottle of their regular 10-year old offering to keep my stock up.

From there we headed off towards the Cairngorms, driving north along Glen Shee we had coffee at the Spittal of Glenshee (which is now signed as ‘Local Services’) and then on to Braemar. From there we followed the River Dee along to Banchory where we had lunch and then went to see the salmon leaping at the Bridge of Feugh.

I am always amazed at watching the salmon run. The Falls of Feugh are somewhere between rapids and a waterfall; they are certainly very fast flowing and quite steep. Given how many fish you see leaping again and again at the first level of the falls, it seems incredible that any of them ever make it up that first rock face, let alone hold that position against the current in some tiny pool to try for the next level and beyond. It seems impossible that any of the fish ever make it past the falls and yet, the fact that every year there are fish who try demonstrates that at least one or two must make it upstream to spawn. Living things can be tenacious and ingenious things when nature is driving them.

From Banchory, we followed the old Saga route south along a scenic B-road which leads up to the Cairn O’ Mount and Fettercairn. Normally you get fantastic views from the summit cairn but today the clouds were rolling by and while we got some lovely monochromatic cloudscapes, there was no patchwork panorama of fields and hills as we looked east.

That said, all along the roads the heather is just beginning to flower so in amongst all the multi-hued greens there are frequent bursts of bright purple, although sadly they don’t show up especially well when photographed.

The final stop on the itinerary was Glamis Castle. Although at first glance it looks like a nineteenth century Scottish Baronial creation, the heart of the building is much older and it is redolent of history, owing both to ancient royal connections as well the more recent connection to the Queen Mother, Touring it you get a lovely sense of both the ancient and modern; the old crypt, lined with claymores and armour from the Civil War and the modern library with piano and billiards table. One day I am going to hire that gorgeous dining room and lay on a fine dinner for thirty of my closest friends!

Photos of the day can be found here.

The loch was totally still when we got back to Briar Cottage, so Brett and I took the 22-year old Edradour and a couple of glasses out to the lochside and sat on the garden swing together; enjoying each other’s company, the fine whisky and the peaceful beauty of the scenery all around us. It was a moment to cherish.

Later on, I also went skinny-dipping in the hot tub, which was both slightly surreal (taking a Jacuzzi in the open air at ten o’clock at night in the Highlands of Scotland? Never!) but also very pleasant…

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