Scotland :: Speyside

The route to whiskey country took us along the east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Aberdeen. While perhaps not the most direct route, I wanted Cory to see Dunnotar Castle, a majestic ruin perched on the edge of the ocean. In this picture you can see the path which leads down to the only land connection to the castle, easily defendable from any attacks by land.

Can you imagine sleeping there with the sound of the sea pounding against the cliffs below? I'd love to pitch a tent in one of the green spaces in the castle ruins and sleep through the night in such a historic spot.

Our accomodation was a tad more inviting, in the tiny village of Craigellachie we stayed at the Greenhall B&B, the last house you see on the main street here which is run by the fabulous pair of Stewart and Maggie. The closest building is the local inn and pub where we spent a long night eating very little and drinking far too much.

We were like children in a candy store, shelves and shelves of scotch, more reasonably priced than anything we'd find at home. The bartender here was ever helpful in making suggestions, and we felt far more welcome than I'd expected.

The next morning we headed out to see the Macallen Distillery, formerly one of the biggest employers in the region. Due to the Christmas break the tours were shut down but we wandered around the grounds in the soft scottish light and snapped some pictures.

Trish smiling from drinking whiskey at 9:30 in the morning...

One of the old walls around the distillery

Looking towards the river Spey which runs just below this hill.

Macallen wasn't the only distillery we visited, driving the backroads to explore the area on our way to Cardhu we saw this phone booth on the edge of a row of houses, too small to be called a village.

At Cardhu we take get a tour with a group of military trainees from England up for holidays. They were young and desparately hungover, and provided enough of a distraction for the tour guide that Cory had time to take a few photos.

While the distillery tours offered free tastings at their conclusion, the highlight was the Speyside Cooperage tour where the barrels the whiskey is aged in are repaired. Outside the cooperage was this fellow, placid mannered and yet slightly wild in looks.

Stewart convinced us that no trip to Craigellachie was complete without drinks at the Fiddichside Inn, a tiny pub run by a husband and wife team in their 80s. She inherited the Inn from her parents and a drink there comes with stories of the past by a roaring fire. We drank there twice, and both times the pub was full with about 5 people, the room smaller than the bathrooms at more modern places. The first night we met the wife and heard stories of her time in the service in WWII. The second night it was the husband's turn to mind the bar, and he told us about working for Macallen in the 1950s when three times a day workers were given glasses of raw spirit. He also worked for the Speyside cooperage in the days before machinery aided the tasks. To tour in Scotland means more history that just castles and ruins, but the history of the people who live there for generations.

On our final day in the Speyside we drove through the villages of Dufftown and Aberlour, stopping to marvel at Balvennie Castle. Balvennie distillery is now part of the Glenfiddich operation and is made just down the hill from the old family home.

In the winter light we often found it hard to take pictures with our slow camera, but when we did get one, the colours were often rich and subtle.

We felt nervous leaving Craigellachie, three wonderful days in a perfect spot, to move on to an unknown bed and breakfast in Inverness and then no plans. I could have spent my entire holiday in this one region, sampling whiskey, surviving on bowls of hearty soup, and the warmth of our hosts. But the rest of Scotland beckoned...

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