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Blog Whisky Trip 26/Oct/2005

If you had told me six weeks ago that I would be going on a whisky-drinking holiday, I would have slapped you silly, insulted your parentage, and berated you for wasting my time. It was thus that I returned on Sunday from a weekend in Sutherland with the Edinburgh University Water of Life Society. If you don't count my August bank holiday in Crawley last year, this was my first holiday since summer 2001, and the two couldn't have been more different. Herewith a potted description of a great weekend!

We left on Friday afternoon from the inauspicious foot of Appleton Tower in the pouring rain. We stopped for a brief-as-possible toilet break in Birnam-of-Macbeth-fame, and made excellent time to Inverness, where we ate dinner in the friendliest kebab shop in the north (decent pakora, but not really a patch on the Woodlands Road shop) and stocked up on provisions from Morrison's (including the biggest box of Cadbury's Fingers ever!). Once out of the city, the minibus careened off the A9 at Munlochy, and—just as I was about to take issue with the seeming loss of direction—we arrived at the Clootie Well. Full of false confidence, and ignoring the mystery car that was also sitting in the pitch-black car park, I joined the advance party into the woods. The sight of a forest with rags tied to every tree was at first a bit creepy, but ultimately rather impressive. I wouldn't go there alone, though, especially not when you consider this. Onwards it was then to Carbisdale Castle, our palatial home for the weekend, and a couple of wee drams to get settled in.

After a negligible amount of sleep, it was up at eight on the Saturday, for a long day of activities. Apparently, there was a rumour of the showers being haunted, but I found the impending threat of public nudity to be far scarier than any posited ghost. We ate a hearty cooked breakfast, before setting out for the Clynelish Distillery in Brora. The tour included a tasting of two single malts, and marks a nadir for me as the first pre-midday dram that I've consumed. Lunchtime followed, and I can say emphatically that Brora is home to the finest chips in all Scotland. Yum. Subsequent activities were a visit to the abandoned Clearance Village at Badbea, a stone broch at Carn Liath, and the contentious statue of the Duke of Sutherland that dominates the area from atop Ben Bhraggie.

All of which suggests a busy day, but it was far from over. Once back at the hostel, it remained to cook dinner for 31 people. For whatever reason, my own abject lack of cookery experience was enlisted to help with the preparation of a monster spaghetti bolognese. Amazingly, people seemed to like it, and even went back for seconds and thirds. The sauce would later make a cameo appearance in Tristan's bolognese sandwiches, about which you probably don't want to ask.

After dinner, and a brief bout of late-onset onion fatigue, there was the tasting to end all tastings. It included the most expensive bottle yet bought by the society (coming in at £65), and two of Diageo's classic malts. Afterwards, we retired to the TV Lounge and had our very own Withnail and I moment when we had a run in with a local whisky-hater.

On, then, to Sunday, and the day of our return. In the morning, after another hearty (and even deliciouser) breakfast, our half of the party set out on a walk through Carbisdale Forest and enjoyed some spectacular views and weather. From there, we went to the Dalmore Distillery overlooking the Cromarty Firth, for an excellent tour that was preceded by the funniest promotional DVD that any of us had ever seen. The tour was more hands-on than at Clynelish, and we got to taste more than just the bottled product. There was also more alcoholic victimisation than a particularly-vindictive round of one of Gary's drinking games. After the tour, we headed back into Inverness to visit the Whisky Shop for a tasting of some more malts. Although water was provided for the purpose of cutting the whisky, you would have needed to be a master-titrator in order to avoid washing the micro-drams away. Much heeing and hawing led to a surprisingly pleasant dinner in the local Bella Italia, then we hit the road back to Edinburgh. Surprisingly good time was made from Inverness to Edinburgh—so much so that I don't remember stopping en route, but I did nod off for a while.

Once we were back in the city, there was only one sensible course of action: to Cloisters for an end-of-trip dram! After a whole weekend, my insufferable perkiness couldn't last, and promptly came to an end when I K.O.'d at two in the morning. Just as well it's reading* week, then….

Cheers,

Derek.

PS. To see more photos of the trip, so far there are mine, Tamara's and Leo's.

* recovering.

 
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