Scotland Part III

We got up and had breakfast with a Swiss couple. The woman spoke almost no English, just French. I spoke even less French. KrisDi had cured meats and cheeses, and I had the full Scottish breakfast. Agnes chatted with us for a little while after breakfast (I think I was asking her if she spun her own yarn, since she had some spinning wheels about the house). A little bird came along and was hopping outside the window, and Agnes expressed some remorse that she didn’t have anything to feed him. Then she looked at my plate, and looked at me, and said, “Are you going to eat that?” and proceeded to take food from my plate to feed to the bird.

We tried again to go see Dunvegan (after some research revealing a public access location you could see it across the bay). We stopped at a cute little bridge during the ~20 minutes drive there.

While we were ogling the castle from afar, we saw some seals in the water. I slipped and almost fell on the seaweed. We watched interesting light and weather patterns. Then we got in the car to drive to Carbost.

We stopped near a bridge over a river (later identified as the Amar river). We stopped on the way at a ruined church with a cemetery because I saw some boats. I ran into another guy walking out of the field adjacent to the wrecked boats, chatted briefly with him, and learned he was the owner of the land. He let me go in and take pictures as long as I closed the gate on the way out. This was one of my favorites.

We got to Carbost, wandered a bit to kill some time, walked out to the pier, and went to a little coffee shop where we had “millionaire shortbread“. The coffee shop was named Caol Babh, I think, meaning “black sheep”.

Then it was time for our tour at Talisker. This guy, Gordon, finally explained why photos aren’t allowed in certain parts of the distillery tours. It’s nothing to do with secrecy — a lot to do with the possibility of an inordinate amount of alcohol vapors and the potential exposure to sparks or heat from cameras / flashes.

Gordon got to kick out some angry people who were in the wrong tour (they were supposed to be in a later time slot), and he got to yell at someone for ignoring the no photography rules in spots.

Talisker used wooden fermenting tanks, peat, they had different grist ratios from Aberlour; their fermentation is about 64 hours. Lots of similarities and some differences.

We saw that Talisker has a couple barrels from 1979 that they’re getting ready to open to make a 30 year bottling. We learned that Talisker is by the sea basically to allow shipping ingredients in and shipping whisky out (there being a surfeit of roads in the Isle of Skye at the time of their founding). Gordon told us that the slight salt flavor many people detect in their whisky is not environment, but they’re not entirely sure how it comes about.

The tasting was a chocolate pairing. The chocolate was made special with less sugar to work better with the whisky. We tasted Storm (with no pairing), 10 year (with just chocolate), Distiller’s Edition (with sea salt caramel) and the Distillery Exclusive (with a chili chocolate). Afterward, we bought samples of Port Ruighe (pronounced “portree”, and which we subsequently bought), and Neist Point. We also bought two boxes of the chocolates, which I would later crush in Ireland. Oh, and we bought a little (200ml) bottle of Clynelish 14, which we intended to drink in our room that night.

After our tour, we walked up an interminable hill (which Google described as “mostly flat”) to go to the Oyster Shed. We had oysters, langoustines, and the best scallops either of us has ever had. It was KrisDi’s first time trying oysters. The langoustines were very good, but a pain in the ass to eat. Very high shell-to-food ratio.

We drove to the Glenfinnan Viaduct (probably most famous for the scene(s) in Harry Potter where the Hogwarts Express drives across it). It rained on us the whole time. It was cool — we probably would have looked around a bit more if it wasn’t raining and we had more time to spare.

KrisDi made me laugh because she kept trying to dry the camera lens in the rain, and then turn the lens up to look at it and check if it was dry — so it would catch some more rain, and she would repeat the process.

We headed on toward Oban, stopping at Castle Stalker, a little castle on a little island. It looked like a play castle. We later learned that it also served as the Castle Arrrrrgh in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.

We stayed at Adelphi Via in Oban. I nearly gave our host Vincent a heart attack by parking incredibly close to another guest’s car. The room was nice, it had a big shower, but the showerhead looked like a repurposed pepper grinder. We went straight to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, where the food was very satisfying but the floor was alarmingly slanted.

Then we went back to our room to rebalance suitcases and drink the Clynelish, which was quite tasty — sweet and smooth.

Adelphi didn’t offer any breakfast. We went to a place called Abbie’s for breakfast. It was unreal — a scene that might have been cut directly out of a movie. The place is named after the owners’ six year old daughter. A hired window washer was arriving when we got there. The owner gave money to Abbie to pay the washer, who made a big production out of accepting the money. They were adorably formal. After a little while, the window washer announced, “Abbie’s taxi’s here!” After a short period darting about hugging and kissing and getting ready, Abbie left for school on a cab. The owner and the washer proceeded to banter incomprehensibly with Scottish accents.

Then a stream of Asian tourists flowed in, doing all the typical tourist things, debating at length in their own language, and then one person haltingly communicating in English about menu items and orders.

An elderly couple came in, and asked “Are your parking attendants clean here?”

“Yes, very!”

“Then we better go feed the meter!”

After breakfast, we walked to the pier, had coffee, and went to the distillery. The guide was a Cuban woman. Oban also used wood fermenters, but they ferment for ~six days, swearing this is how they generate the citrus flavors they’re famous for. Unlike most other distilleries, Oban was built in an empty spot and the town grew up around it, rather than being intentionally located near an existing town. This ended up boxing them in — all the land adjacent to the distillery is owned, so they can’t expand. Consequently, they’re one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland.

Unlike Talisker, Oban claims the salt flavor their whisky boasts is most definitely due to proximity to the ocean. The Cuban also told us that the UK government taxes 79% on all whisky sold. She also told us a fantastic story of her first experience with Scotch, which was not available in Cuba: “I started dating this Scottish man, now my husband, who loves Lagavulin and who knew that rum was very popular and Cuba. He figured, if rum is popular, it must be good, and if it’s good, it must be like Lagavulin! So, when he introduced me to Scotch, he merrily handed me a huge glass of Lagavulin and told me it was like rum, expecting me to love it, and I nearly spat it out.”

Our samples here were Little Bay and 14 Year. We got to keep the little thistle glass they served the samples in. We had to wait a bit for the bar to open after our tour. We tried the Distiller’s Edition and the Night’s Watch. They were out of the Distillery Exclusive, which we wanted to try based on the description. They expected to get some later in the day, so we stalled a bit, hoping they’d have it before we left town so we could try it and maybe buy it.

So, we walked to McCraig’s Tower (again, Google Maps called the interminable slope “mostly flat”). We couldn’t figure out any actual purpose for the tower. But, we could see a castle across the bay (apparently Duart Castle). And a lighthouse. We walked back down the hill to the pier again and had lunch at Waterfront Sea Food.

I had mussels (very good) and smoked mackerel (excellent). KrisDi had crispy cajun prawns (okay) and rainbow trout over salmon and leek risotta (really good). Based on photos, apparently we had sticky toffee pudding (evidently not very memorable).

After lunch, we walked back toward Oban, and decided to stop in a random “necessities” store to see if they had a luggage scale, and stumbled right into one that cost like four dollars. We had to borrow their scissors to get the blister package open, though. This was surprisingly serendipitous — I expected this to be a “stop in at a dozen shops and then pay outlandish sums of money” kind of thing.

Oban still didn’t have the Distillery Exclusive, and I wasn’t interested in paying 450 euros for a bottle of 35 year old Oban, so we bought a bottle of the Night’s Watch. We walked back to the room, and using the new (and wildly inconsistent!) scale, shuffled luggage in the driveway to try and reach a balance within the weight limits. My back hurt significantly just from repeatedly lifting the bags a few inches to try to weigh them.

On our way to Glasgow, we stopped at a gorgeously calm little lake with a waterfall, and then at Castle Inveraray. Here, they had a big ass garden in the back, pictures of modern and ancient dukes that had (or still did) live there, lots of museum-type stuff like old weapons, dishes, and clothing. There appeared to be some relationship with Chivas Regal, based on the large amount of Chivas Regal regalia. Inveraray is more of the “palace” style of castle than the “fortress” style. Apparently, it was a summer home for the queen.

Our rental car was low on gas, but I didn’t want to make two stops (one soon just to fill, another one just before the airport to return the car with a full tank). So we pushed our luck…mentally chewing my fingernails in suspense the whole time. The “low gas” alarm dinged (which is much more alarming in a car you don’t know well versus a car you know well).

We made it, and after 736 miles on the wrong side of the road, we finally bid adieu to our Insignia. Only two contacts between car and curb.

Our flight out was Aer Lingus. The check in woman looked like a Saturday Night Live actress. She laughed at us for attempting to take one of our bags as carry-on (apparently it was ridiculously large, but surprisingly didn’t charge us to check it (which clearly policy would have mandated).

We got through security, started looking for a restaurant, and just as we approach one, fire alarms started going off. We were evacuated right back outside security, went straight back to security again (and had to explain to the security guy why we were going through security a second time). Once we got back through, we had to wait while security first cleared the area, then allowed employees back in, then allowed normal humans back in.

We sat and had dinner and a couple of beers. I had a disappointing chili of some kind. KrisDi had wings that were pretty good.

Our plane was a little prop jet, not very full. The woman from the ticket counter also came and worked the gate. They also were late boarding, late takeoff, and they charged even for a soda on board.

We made it to Ireland. We landed in Dublin around 9:40 PM. Bags came out very, very slowly. Passport control was very, very easy. Customs was just a walk through. A van took us to Alamo, where we met our Nissan Qashqai (which we pronounced “cash cow”). A 2016 SUV, diesel, with like 26,000km on it.

It was dark and rainy, and we took wrong turns all over the place on the way out. Getting to our room that night was stressful. Google Maps told us to take a left, which was really a right and then a left; we dubbed this an “Irish Left,” which came to mean any incomprehensible computer-generated driving direction.

When we finally found the block the Roxford Arms Hotel was supposed to be on, there was no place to put our car. At all, as far as we could tell. So I dropped KrisDi off at the front, and went and waited in an alley. She rang the bell, waited, was told to walk around to the back (which is great — late at night in the rain, telling a confused and stressed foreign woman to walk a block and a half to go through an alley to find an unmarked door in the dark). Eventually, we got our car in the parking lot and ourselves inside the building.

The room was big, with a weird layout. It’s one of those rooms where the key card turns power on or off for the whole room. When the power was on, the TV was on. We asked the woman how to turn the TV off.

“It’ll turn off when you leave the room.”

KrisDi and I exchanged a glance and telepathically said in unison, “…but we want it off while we’re in the room…”

Basically, we went to bed as soon as we could.

Posted by snaotheus

1 comment

That is one very weird shower head.

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