Actual Trip: Scotland, Week One.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

 
red door at Glenfarclas Distillery
So I know this isn't DIY or home improvement or project related or even a Web Trip but I did promise I'd share more about my actual trip, my Scotland travels.  And since it's been a year to date, this seems a very overdue yet fitting time.  Here's week one, Scotland!

Whooo, it took a year to get to this, jeez louise my goodness, yikes!

My cool woodworking friend Scott and I also made a brief jaunt over to the Faroe Islands because, well, it's close and utterly stunning.  I'm hardly going to scratch the surface of the trip but I'll do three posts: week one, week two Scotland, and then Faroe Islands with tips we learned there.

I have over 1200 photos FYI, so count yourselves lucky for this barely-scratch-the-surface overview.  It was very hard to pick so few for you.

What's my biggest tip when traveling though?  At the end of every day, write down where you went, what you did, what you saw, where you ate, what you ate if it matters to you, as little or as much about your day as you want (but lean more).  Trust me, you will be so thankful for the notes later.

So yeah!  Let's kick our feet up and do some real travel with my Scotland September 2022 trip!  I feel horribly bad sharing in a sense, it hurts my heart, as Mike didn't get to go (someone had to stay for hates-everyone Finn despite multiple attempts to find him a sitter).  (Sorry, babe.)  

Someday Mike and I will be there.  Or move there.

map of route traveled through Scotland
Map is trimmed and adapted from OnTheWorldMap.
Yes, this map is our Scotland tour.  Yes.  Right?!  

How do I know this?  Travel tip two:  a mileage tracker app on my phone.  I use DriversNote.

We saw a lot.  A lot.  Scott and I casually walked over eighty miles these two weeks.  How do I know this?  Travel tip three:  the step counter in the Health app on my phone.  Over 177,000 steps.

If you read my DIY Wood Dowel Hooks post, you'll know the reason for this once-in-a-lifetime, tremendous trip.  Airfare and week one were courtesy of John Grant and Glenfarclas Distillery.  Yes you read that right and as such, buy all the Glenfarclas Whisky.*
 
antique Glenfarclas whisky bottle unpacked
I stressed for months on how to pack this 1930's-ish bottle to travel 3000 miles in two cargo holds.  Photo courtesy of John Paul Photography and shared with permission.
John himself personally picked us up at Edinburgh Airport and off we set on our incredible journey.  

First on the agenda was driving along the Fife coast up to St. Andrew's.  Having grown up with a Dad who golfed, I saw this course on the television set annually, so it was quite special to see it in person for him.  Then actually walk on the 18th fairway too.  Iiii know.

me standing on bridge at 18th fairway of St. Andrew's
Running on fumes, Coca Cola, and excitement after having not slept on the plane, here I am on the bridge at St. Andrew's.
We next drove north through Dundee then west through Perth.  No stopping, we were on our way to our first of two nights' stay in Pitlochry at the Old Mill Inn.  Highly highly recommend both Pitlochry and the Old Mill Inn.

street in Pitlochry, Scotland
Pitlochry
Next day, up and at 'em, and after a nice warm bowl of Scottish porridge* (oh my Word, infinitely better than meh American oats) (someone please send me bushels of Scottish oats), we were off.

On tap:  Queen's View then Blair Castle, back down to Dunkeld and the best hot chocolate ever, through the House of Bruar, and The Hermitage.  Maybe not in that particular order but that was our day with a few stops between.  Out-freaking-standing.  Had a can of Irn Bru* and I liked it, whatever the flavor may be.

Queen's View in Scotland
Queen's View

Blair Castle, Scotland
Blair Castle with John and Scott.

The Hermitage, Scotland
The Hermitage
The next day it was off to the Highlands and Glenfarclas with a quick stop at John's antique auto repair shop and the gate at Balmoral.  The Queen had died two days before our flight over.  

flowers at Balmoral
Flowers piling up at Balmoral.
We checked into The Dowans Hotel (holy omg).  With no time to gussy up to not look jet-fried, we were whisked off to a three-hour, four-course personal chef champagne, wine, and whisky lunch with John, his delightful wife Ishbel, Managing Director Douglas, Distillery Manager Callum, and International Sales Executive Debs.

Yes.  Wow is an understatement.

The Dowans Hotel, Scotland
The Dowans Hotel.  Holy heck, right?!
Not before a photo shoot with John, me, and the bottle though.  Then lunch.  

photo of photo shoot at Glenfarclas
Thanks, Scott, for the photo!  Left to right:  me, John, John Paul, and Debs in the still room.
Oh my heavens.  Oh. My. Heavens.  What a day.  What a day!  

I tasted whisky as old as me.  My jaw discreetly (I hope) on the floor the Whole Entire Time.  Was this all real?!  I cannot even begin to describe the experience, especially as I had no idea any of it was coming.

Glenfarclas Distillery
Debs told us later that the afternoon-long lunches with John and Ishbel are exclusive and legendary.  What an honor to have been at one.          Wow.....          Right?!  I'm still speechless.

The next two days we spent with hilariously fun Debs starting with a personal tour of the distillery.  Hopped in the van for a stock-up at Walker's factory store, Telford Bridge, then off to Elgin for lunch at Johnstons (by the way, the Scottish are huge fans of mac and cheese), over to Lossiemouth and the North Sea, through Forres, then back down to The Dowans for the night.

view of the North Sea from Lossiemouth
Wow does that look cold.  And wow, I could stare at this photo all day.

Debs picked us up the next day to take us to Fort William but took us a diverted route through Inverness then down along Loch Ness.  We lunched at Fiddler's and then yes, found the Loch Ness monster.  Didn't you see the news report?!
 

The next morning was our Jacobite Steam Train trip despite not being Harry Potter fans but, fans of great scenery.  Mallaig was incredible.  So were the baked goods at The Bakehouse.  You must hit up every local bakery, by the way.  And you must drink your weight in proper hot chocolate.  Trust me.

boats in Mallaig

baked goods at The Bakehouse in Mallaig
One of each please.
The Grants picked us up at the station back in Fort William and took us to Port Appin where we stayed and dined at The Pierhouse.  Nothing short of downright mind-blowing.  And here is where I could no longer escape John's insistence that I try haggis.  Um, let's just say I might not be making it at home.
 
view from The Pierhouse in Port Appin
Holy cats and dogs, the view from The Pierhouse.....
Off we were the next day for a driving tour, first through Oban and now I know how to correctly pronounce it along with many other names.  Drove along Loch Lomond and over to Stirling Castle where I got to stand beneath a statue of my Great times-multiple-generations Uncle (or something) Robert the Bruce.  

statue of Robert the Bruce at Stirling Castle
See the resemblance?
I read, FYI, that it does irk some Scots if you mention your very long and deep line of Scottish roots but live elsewhere so I kept mum.  But, turns out John could have arranged a dinner with other Robert the Bruce relatives and seemed more irked that I hadn't mentioned it until too late.  

Yes, John knows everyone.  He went to school with the now King.

We next headed to Falkirk Wheel, then the Kelpies, then to Champany Inn, John's most favorite place in the country where we dined like royalty and soundly slept.

view of Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel

The Kelpies
The Kelpies

The Champany Inn
The Champany Inn
The next day John and Ishbel dropped us off in Edinburgh for the start of our second week's adventures.  I got a little teary, it was a bit embarrassing, but I couldn't help myself.  I was so overwhelmed but in the good way.

I never foresaw being shown, via all back roads even, Scotland personally by the chairman of an award-winning, highly-regarded the world over company.  I mean, didn't he have better things to do than tote my butt around his country?  

One of the most interesting facets of Scotland is that it's like a small town.  Outside of the major cities, it's like a tight-knit community.  Everyone seems to know everyone else and it feels so warm and welcoming.  

John's, and everyone at Glenfarclas' generosity continues to blow my mind daily.  I honestly cannot thank them enough and I tend to become speechless when it comes to John and Ishbel.

It is pretty damn cool to know that my family's old Glenfarclas bottle is on display in their visitor center too, back home where it belongs.  Be sure to drop by and say hi to it for me, would ya?  Debs wrote up the nifty byline for the display.

Siiiiigh.  

So there's Actual Trip, Scotland Week One!  So soul-filling for me to relive it by typing this up.

Thanks, Uncle Wes; thanks, person who gave my Uncle Wes that bottle.  Thanks, Mom and Dad for keeping it for decades.  Thanks, John, Ishbel, Debs, Douglas, Callum, and all of Glenfarclas.  John Paul Photography, too, thank you.  Thank you, Scott.  Sorry, Mike, for the gut punch but thank you for holding down the fort.

Scotland is an exceptional country.  Truly truly remarkable.  I can't get back there soon enough.

And hopefully it will not take me a year to get to the rest of these actual trip posts.  Stay tuned!  Jump to week two here!

*The Glenfarclas Whisky link is a Drizzly affiliate link.  The Scottish porridge oats and Irn Bru are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info. 

2 comments

  1. WOW. What an awesome treat to read about your adventure to my "home" country. My middle name is my maiden name and I am 99.7% Scottish (according to 23&Me). Thank you for sharing this...I look forward to visiting as it's #1 on my bucket list!

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    Replies
    1. Oh wow, thank you very very much! I’m absolutely positive you’ll love it there and I hope you get a chance to go ASAP! Keep an eye out for my week two, hopefully coming soon! Thanks so much!

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