Tag Archives: Scotland

Whiskey, Woolens, and Woods, Oh My!

St. Andrews Golf Course

St. Andrews Golf Course

The rest of our stay in Scotland was spent with the three “Ws” – whiskey, woolens, and woods. Much of Scotch Whiskey is made along the Speyside Trail in the highlands of Scotland. You could spend days exploring the distilleries but not being Scotch drinkers we limited ourselves to two – Craigamore and Glenfiddich. Craigamore is a small company but more hands on so that is the one we chose for a personally guided tour of the whisky making process. At Glenfiddich we spent our time in the shop buying their product and exploring the grounds. My only taste of Scotch resembled something like liquid barbecue pit so I was pleased to find out that Scotch, like wine, can have many different tastes.

North of the distilleries lies the town of Elgin, home to Johnston Woolens. We enjoyed an afternoon cup of tea and a scone and then spent the rest of the time carefully looking at the cashmere scarfs, sweaters, and socks. The prices of homegrown cashmere seemed to be cost prohibited so we felt the soft woolens rather than purchasing very much.

The next morning, our car headed south for two hours, to the home of golfing, St. Andrews. This renown golf course lies beside the sea and is quite beautiful even to non golfers. You can run out on a part of the 18th hole for a photo-op at a little bridge on the course. And of course we did.

While it rained part of each day we were in Scotland it did not take away from our enjoyment of this beautiful country. The people are quite friendly and helpful, the scenery wondrous, and the food delicious. We left much unexplored so will be back in the future.

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Ballater and Beyond

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle

We are in the Scottish Highlands because we traded our timeshare at Walt Disney World for a week at Hotel Craigendarroch in Ballater. Our place is a two-bedroom chalet with many amenities (including a sauna room). Too bad I hate intense heat! We are immersed in forest full of birds and bunnies.

The town of Ballater is a small and quaint with everything you would need to be “on holiday.” We have enjoyed fresh strawberries and raspberries, strong cheddar cheese and wonderful hot tea. The weather has been quite good with only one day so far of rain.

We are seven miles from the royal family’s summer home, Balmoral so that became our first outing. Tourists are welcome only when the queen in not in residence usually from April until July. Balmoral tries to be self-sufficient so you can wander the royal gardens, see their ponies, and learn the history of this peaceful summer retreat. Queen Victoria had the home built to enjoy the beauty as well as the privacy of the area.

On day two we ventured to Aberdeen and visited a mall. I have as much fun acting like a native as visiting tourist attractions. Mike found the Starbucks to be relaxing as mother and I went and found a few goodies. I also learned that in addition to driving on the left side of the road, the people walk on the left side of a corridor so our motto has been, “to the left, to the left.”

One of the things I dreaded after enjoying the culinary delights of Germany and Italy was the food but it has been a delightful surprise. We have eaten in small pubs and private dining rooms but all of our meals have been yummy. Scottish food is mostly meat and vegetables but prepared with locally reared beef and fish as well as fresh grown vegetables. This makes all the difference in taste. A word to the wise – a pickle is some concoction that resembles baked beans without the beans. If you want a cucumber pickle, ask for a gherkin.

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A Bumpy Ride to Edinburgh

Getting Inspiration From J. K. Rowling

Getting Inspiration From J. K. Rowling

Most of our summer vacation this year is planned for the British Isles. It has been my mother’s dream to see Scotland, so she has accompanied us. First stop – Edinburgh.

Before we reached our destination, we had to get through the challenge that is modern air flights. Our original carrier was Continental into Newark and then a six hour flight into Edinburgh. I was really looking forward to a relatively short flight and find Continental to the most comfortable of the US airlines I have used. Unfortunately we could not get into Newark in time so Continental changed our itinerary to board Delta Airlines via Atlanta and London, an additional stop and six hours. The upside is that we were upgraded to first class for the transatlantic portion of the trip. We trustingly boarded the first Delta flight, moved to the last seats on the plane, (over the engines) and flew to Atlanta. At that point we were issued economy tickets because Delta would not recognize the upgrade from Continental. After spending an hour on hold, Mike got a supervisor from Continental to speak with Delta. The folks at Delta refused to speak, listen, or change the reservations. Continental advised us to accept the situation with a smile as Delta could label us a security risk. The London flight was over an hour late so at nearly midnight we boarded our plane. To assuage our disappointment, Delta allowed us to board with children in strollers. Yea us!

We arrived late to London with just the right amount of time to catch the flight to Edinburgh – which had been upgraded to business class. The only difference between business and economy on British Midland is a cup of tea and a biscuit. But they were quite nice.

Finally at around 6:00 in the evening, we arrived in Edinburgh – pronounced Edinburah (rolling Scottish burr at the end.) Our hotel, the Apex International, a local chain was very comfortable, We ate our first meal at a local pub. I don’t drink beer but have found that the pubs carry hard cider, which is very refreshing.

The next morning, we ate a typical Scottish breakfast and yes I tried the Haggis. While it sounds quite vile, I found that it tasted kind of like sausage and oatmeal. We then set off to find where J.K. Rowling wrote the first “Harry Potter” book. It is now a tea place, called “The Elephant House.” You can see Edinburgh Castle through its windows and understand how the world of Hogswart was inspired.

Our stay in this historic city was short. We were due in Ballater by 4:00 so Mike rented a car and learned very quickly how to drive on the left side of the road.

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