At Glenfiddich


There was no way I was going to go to the Speyside and not stop in at either of the region’s two most historically significant names. The most significant distillery, of course, is Glenlivet. But Glenlivet was just a bit too far out of the way for our mostly non-whisky-obsessed group. Glenfiddich has the added attraction of being situated right by the ruins of Balvenie Castle. And so it was an easy choice to go to the distillery that pioneered the marketing of distillery-released single malt whisky in the early 1960s. Accordingly, we drove right there from Strathisla. The two make for quite a contrast, especially in quick juxtaposition. Continue reading

Strathisla on a Sunday


Strathisla was supposed to be the first distillery we stopped at on this trip to Scotland. We left Edinburgh in the morning on a Friday and drove north and slightly east to Glamis Castle, thanking my many-armed gods along the way for the big highway we were on. We ate lunch at and toured Glamis Castle with our friends and then headed towards the Speyside. (By the way, if you’re into the Scottish castles thing, I heartily recommend Glamis Castle; they have very nice grounds—including play areas for kids—and while it’s pricey, the ticket includes a very good guided tour.) We chose to go via Aberdeen, in order to stay on large highways the whole way. This seemed like it had been an excellent decision until we got out of Aberdeen. Then a horrific accident on the A96 bottled up traffic for a good long while, and there was no way we were going to get to the distillery before they closed. Sitting on the highway we texted between cars and decided to head straight to dinner in Craigellachie instead (an enjoyable meal at the Highlander Inn, on which more later). As such, Glen Grant ended up being the first distillery we stopped at the next morning; Glen Moray followed that. We finally got to Strathisla bright and early on our second day in the Speyside, a Sunday morning.  Continue reading

Glen Moray, On the Run (Summer 2018)


Glen Moray was our second distillery stop on our first full day in the Speyside. I’d originally planned for us to eat lunch at their cafe, with the possibility of a quick tour. But things didn’t pan out that way.

We started the day at Glen Grant and drove up to Elgin. After a visit to Elgin Cathedral, a large part of the group broke off to do a “Murder Mystery Treasure Trail” (highly recommended if you have small children with you) while a small splinter went off to check out Elgin’s other cathedral, the Gordon & MacPhail store—you’ll never guess which group I was part of. (Gordon & MacPhail was a hugely disappointing experience, as I will report later.) As the Treasure Trail had not been completed by lunch time we decided to eat in Elgin, finish the trail, and then go straight to our primary afternoon destination: Roseisle Beach in Burghead. On the way, we popped into Glen Moray while our friends went grocery shopping for dinner. While the kids used the facilities, I did a quick walk around the shop and distillery grounds, snapping crappy pictures, and then we were off. But there’s no reason why you should not look at those pictures now, is there?  Continue reading

At Glen Grant, Mostly in the Gardens (Summer 2018)


I may as well begin my long series of reports on our recent trip to Scotland with a look at the first distillery we visited: Glen Grant. It had not originally been on my list of places to stop at in the Speyside—where we rented a house with friends for a weekend after our time in Edinburgh. But Florin recommended it as a distillery where there’d be a lot for non-whisky-crazed members of the party to do, and so we stopped in. Florin was right. Though I didn’t do it the way I think he’d meant I should: me touring the distillery while the others wandered the grounds. As on our last trip to Scotland, I didn’t want to spend most of my time inside distilleries, doing repetitive tours. Especially when a distillery like Glen Grant has something truly unusual outside it: expansive and very attractive grounds. And so I joined everybody else in the gardens, where the kids ran and played and had a grand old time for almost an hour. It was a very good whisky-free introduction to whisky country.  Continue reading

Back to Scotland in a Month: Help Me Plan


We went to Scotland at the end of our extended sojourn in London last year—spending time mostly on Skye and Islay. While planning that trip I’d thought that it would be my first and only trip to Scotland. There are many parts of the world we want to visit as a family, and as we can’t do international trips every year, it didn’t seem likely that we’d double up instead of going somewhere new. But we loved our time in London and our trip to Scotland so much, we’ve been plotting a return ever since we got back. As luck would have it, an academic conference the missus and I were both interested in is taking place in Edinburgh in June; we applied and were accepted. Accordingly, we will be in Edinburgh for four days in early June and will then go up for another week to the Speyside and then further north to Orkney. I have the broad contours of the trip planned but invite your feedback here.  Continue reading

Food+Whisky in Tarbert (Scotland)


Tarbert is a charming town on the shores of Loch Fyne. It is located just a few miles from Kennacraig where the Islay ferries depart and arrive. On our way to Islay we arrived an hour and a half early and so spent that time in Tarbert. On the way back from Islay we returned to the town for lunch. The town seems to see a fair bit of tourist action and there are quite a few restaurants and b&b’s. Friends who’ve recently stayed in Tarbert without going on to Islay say it’s a worthwhile destination in its own right. I don’t doubt it. It would probably make a good base for exploration of the Loch Fyne area and down to Campbeltown, which is only an hour or so away. Here now is a quick look at the town, a brief account of our lunch and a view of a whisky store I randomly stopped in at. Continue reading

An Tigh Seinnse, Portnahaven (Scotland)


I have been trying to construct a hilarious joke about “An Tigh Seinnse” being the Gaelic name for Bruichladdich’s wine experiments but have failed. In fact, as far as I can make out, it translates as “the public house” or something along those lines (some sources say “the house of singing”), and that is in fact what An Tigh Seinnse is: a cozy pub in Portnahaven, a tiny town at the southwestern end (or one of the southwestern ends) of Islay, all the way at the opposite end of Loch Indaal from the American Monument (a few miles west from Port Ellen). We went to Portnahaven after my tour at Bowmore. We didn’t have anything particular in mind. We knew we were unlikely to see the seals that often lie on the rocks around the bay there—it was a grey and rainy day—but we did want to drive around more of Islay. So we went anyway, enjoying the scenery, and when we got there we happened upon An Tigh Seinnse, just as we were beginning to wonder what we should do for lunch. Herewith a brief account of this meal. Continue reading

Dinner at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore (Scotland)


I described this dinner last week as the bad one between two decent meals at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen. It was, in fact, the worst meal we had on Islay, and probably the worst we had in Scotland—the fish and chips from the food truck outside Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit at least had the virtue of being much cheaper. We ended up here after our attempt to eat dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel failed on account of our having failed to make a reservation. The dining room was absolutely empty but they could not seat us. Now, it’s likely they had reservations for every table and didn’t want to risk us going late but there was something about the pause and once-over the manager gave us before saying they couldn’t seat us that made us feel a little odd. But I digress. Leaving Port Charlotte, we thought about trying the Bridgend Hotel but parking was hectic and so we kept going and ended up in Bowmore instead. After parking near the pier we walked up the street which has the restaurants and as the Lochside Hotel came up first we poked our heads in; and when they said they could seat us, we sat down. There was a nice photograph of Pinkie MacArthur on the wall next to my head and this seemed like a good omen. Alas, it was not. Continue reading

Two Dinners at the Islay Hotel, Port Ellen (Scotland)


I only have a few meal reports left from our trip to Islay in June. As I said in my review of our lunch at Royal China, Canary Wharf last week, writing these reports, and then reading them later, is a good way to relive our time in the UK. Perhaps they’re of some use as well to people who might travel to these places too? Well, even if not, here’s an account of two dinners we ate at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen on Islay. We did not stay at the hotel, which is located bang in the middle of Port Ellen—you pass it as you come off the ferry; we only ate at the restaurant, which is open to all. Continue reading

Ee-usk, Oban (Scotland)


When last seen eating in Scotland we were on Skye, at the Claymore in Broadford. I now pick up the story on the next day when we drove south to Tarbert to take the ferry to Islay. We’d left the day’s plans open. I was not sure of how much time to budget for the drive but decided to err on the side of caution—arriving an hour or more early for the ferry being a much better option than cutting it too fine and missing it. We weren’t sure where we’d stop for lunch. We’d hoped that that if the weather held up we’d be able to explore Glen Coe a little bit and figured we’d find somewhere to eat in the vicinity—maybe at the Lochleven Seafood Cafe. As it happened, the day was grey and wet and there was no question of stopping for a ramble. And it was too early for lunch. And so we kept going and stopped in Oban instead to eat. I’ve already posted a bit about the opportunistic visit to the distillery that resulted from this stop; here now is a quick account of our lunch at the wonderfully named Ee-usk*. Continue reading

Kilchoman


Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading

The Claymore, Skye (Scotland)


The Claymore was our fourth restaurant meal on Skye. We’d previously eaten at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, Cuchullin in Portree and Creelers in Broadford. Claymore is also in Broadford, more or less just down the hill from Creelers. We very much enjoyed all those other meals and were hoping to eat more excellent seafood at the Claymore. We were also hoping that we’d be lucky and manage to get a table. The Claymore does not take reservations and their website encourages people to not call for one (it’s also not clear from the website if the restaurant’s name is just Claymore or the Claymore Restaurant). Well, we got the last free table when we arrived at about 6.30. We couldn’t get a table in their bright, main dining room with a view of the bay; but with everyone after us being either turned away or being told to wait for 30-45 minutes, we had no complaints. And when the food arrived we had no complaints on that front either. Continue reading

Bruichladdich, Barely (Summer 2017)


Here is my penultimate distillery visit report from our recent visit to Islay. I’ve already gone over my longer visits to Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bowmore (where I did tours) and to Ardbeg (where we ate lunch) and short stops at Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Here now is a brief look at Bruichladdich. We stopped here a little after my tour at Bowmore. We were on our way to Portnahaven, trying to figure out where to have lunch, and stopped at Bruichladdich to see if they might have a cafe (for some reason I’d thought they might). They do not, but I took the opportunity to take a quick look around and take a bunch of photographs.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 2: Lunch (Scotland)


On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island.  Continue reading