A Travellerspoint blog

Islay bound

sunny

We had the opportunity to be good samaritans today, when a Belgian tourist found himself stranded in Tomintoul. He had planned to catch the bus to Ballindalloch, but that bus only ran on a Thursday. And today was a Wednesday. So when our taxi arrived, and it turned out to be a maxi taxi, our new Belgian friend jumped in with us. We left him in Ballindalloch, and carried on back to find Leo just where we'd left him in Craigellachie. The taxi driver warned us that it was a seven hour drive down to Kennacraig - or was it a several hour drive? Either way, we figured we needed to get on our way.
The drive was beautiful - painfully beautiful. Painful simply because we couldn't afford the time to stop, take photos, and appreciate the views. We did stop briefly in Fort William for lunch, and in Oban for fuel. And briefly in Bridgend to post a warning to the Welshes.
In the end we made it to Kennacraig in plenty of time for the ferry, so we had time to sit around and soak up the sunshine. We even sought refuge from the heat until a very unpleasant odour forced us out of the shadows.
Once on the ferry, we took in the sights - and the food. Just for the record, Irn Bru icecream is VERY Irn-Bru-ey. Didn't need any more sugar for the rest of the week after that.
When we arrived at our hotel for the night, we were greeted by Rory and Bonnie, the terriers with very waggly tails. Inside the hotel, we were greeted in a slightly unusual way by Sven from Sweden. He reassured us many times that the bus would not move, without clarifying our parking situation at all. It was an introduction to the hotel that was very hard to explain, but it did result in a laughing fit that lasted half an hour. The rooms themselves were also rather quaint - Team Buccas had a wonderful lime green bathroom, while Team O'Neill had nice blue lighting in their room.
We had a wee dram in the low-ceilinged bar, before retiring to our rooms with their unusual decor.

Posted by Buccas 10:17 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Traipsing to Tomintoul

sunny

We were fortunate to have a simply glorious day for our last day of walking the Speyside Way - sunshine, no rain, and just a gentle cool breeze. We chatted to Mo (the hotel manager) about her experiences in the shearing sheds of Australia, and then our taxi arrived to take us back to The Glenlivet Distillery to finish the Tomintoul Spur. We bought sandwiches there to take on our journey, at which point Simon did a Classic Faff.
The walk started with some serious ascension, and some serious sludge to wade through. We skirted around the peak of one hill, and climbed to the very top of the next hill - Cairn Damh. Amazing views, and a very worthy Mars Bar Hill. Belinda found the remnants of a bottle of Tomintoul whisky, but we doubted very much that it was whisky in the bottle...
After descending, we then had one more hill to traverse, before boldly going through a forest of extreme sludginess. We were glad we weren't headed to Tomnavoul, as that path looked even worse.
After the forest came the farmland. Hello cows, hello sheep! At one point we even walked through a commercial peat farm which meant we were privileged enough to be able to walk on a boardwalk. Such luxury! Such driness underfoot! It was such a pleasure to walk on that even the sheep decided to do it too, and guided us through their paddock. At this point the songs got particularly creative - we'll be releasing an album shortly.
We stopped for lunch looking out over the fields - Simon and Pat were both totally converted to being Coronation Chicken fans, but Belinda had a less satisfying cheese and pickle experience.
We continued traipsing through the fields, and were then told to 'descend directly to the footbridge'. There was no footbridge in sight, but we descended as directly as we could and our faith was rewarded with a footbridge. Winner! Approximately 1km later we found ourselves in Tomintoul, a lovely little town to finish our walk in. We checked into our B&B, which was perfect in every way except that the ceiling above the staircase was not particularly Pat-friendly.
We then entered the Whisky Castle - an amazing array of whiskies, including the world's largest bottle of whisky. The owner of this establishment was a bit like a Scottish Matt Preston, complete with cravat. Wildly passionate and outspoken, and maybe just a wee bit drunk.
We then had time for a spot of souvenir hunting and general relaxing before heading out for dinner, then a cup of tea and some American Pie before bed.

Posted by Buccas 01:32 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Only seven miles...

overcast

Today started with a rather unusual shower experience for me - but holidays are supposed to be all about trying new things, right? Basically it was a bath, with a hand-held shower, that looked like a telephone. Hard to explain, but trust me, it was different.
After that excitement, it was breakfast and then hitting the road for the next leg of our journey. The trip started on the highway, with shouts of "car!" punctuating our jolly sing-a-longs. It wasn't long before we were off the beaten track again, and then the warning calls became "mud!", "slug!", or "poo!". We went uphill, into pheasant territory. It was quite reassuring to see a Lassie dog out for a walk with her owner - we figured she would be able to rescue us if needed. The disadvantage of walking uphill was that it was hard work, but the advantage was the beautiful panoramic view of the Speyside region. Plenty of photo opportunities today! We picked the coldest and most windy spot to stop and have morning tea, but probably also the most visually stunning. Luckily, we had our driest day of all today.
We continued on through the spongy ground and through farmland, where the cows looked at us with a complete and utter lack of interest. We would have looked back at them except that we had to keep watching where we put our feet to ensure we didn't tread anywhere we shouldn't.
A few hours later we arrived at the distillery - The Glenlivet. Lunch included learning about coronation chicken, and whisky icecream. Then we had a tour with some rather annoying fellow tourists who decided to attempt to disagree with the tour guide (who very quickly put them back in their place) and who showed blatant disregard for the 'turn off your mobile phone' instruction. No respect. We then sampled various expressions of The Glenlivet, and attempted to agree on which one was the best. Jury's out, I'm afraid. We wandered through the exhibition, and then chillaxed on some couches before a taxi arrived to take us back to the hotel.
Simon borrowed Pat and Belinda's more conventional shower, and we caught up on our new favourite TV show, Jeremy Kyle. Before long it was dinner time, and we made our way through the hordes of gentlemen in tweed and long socks to get to the dining room. We were definitely the youngest occupants of this hotel by about 30 years... and probably the only ones planning to walk 15km the next day

Posted by Buccas 13:58 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Cardhu?

Cardon't.

rain

Happy Father's Day! We were up and ready for our breakfast at 8am, only to discover that breakfast wasn't served until 9am on Sunday - whoops! Never mind. We headed off (much more confidently this time) in the rain, and made our way back to Aberlour. We met a friendly local who validated our pronunciation of Aberbleurgh, and whose dog proudly showed off her latest stick acquisition. It kept sniddling, so we sought refuge in a bus shelter to eat our morning tea. We then went to the Aberlour Distillery. There we had a very friendly and informative tasting (not a tour, but just as useful as one). They even had beautifully retro pink bathroom facilities.
Next stop on the map was Carron, but there was nothing much to see there. Certainly no shelter for the consumption of lunch. We figured Cardhu Distillery would be a better option, so we kept on through the sniddle.
And then we kept on keeping on, but Cardhu just didn't appear. Tamdhu Distillery did appear, but didn't seem open to visitors. We finally worked out where Cardhu was - but it most certainly wasn't something we would just "walk past" as our guidebook had suggested. So we sat at the defunct Tamdhu train station and had a snack and rested. The hardest part was getting up and going again - Pat was right to stay standing!
We continued on through the muddy paths (that were thankfully very flat) in the direction of Cragganmore. After a few interesting bridges, we arrived at the old Ballindalloch station only to discover we still had another mile to go. Up hill. Our accommodation was described as being "a short distance" from the post office, but I would question their definition of "short". Whatever the distance, we covered it and made it to the Delnashaugh Hotel. Two days of walking done, two to go!

Posted by Buccas 14:47 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Walking the Speyside Way

Part 1

all seasons in one day

After breakfast, we were off on our walk! Leo the Peugeot was left to have a well-earned rest as we commenced the Speyside Way. Except that it took us a little while to work out where the Way actually began... but with the help of a few well-placed landmarks (including a trampoline) we sorted ourselves out.
We walked along the trail in the sunshine and gentle cool breeze, and congratulated ourselves for picking such a wonderful time of year to come to the UK. At a suitably picturesque bridge, we had a makeshift picnic - banana, peanut butter cups and whisky! The first town we encountered was Dufftown, and shortly after that we were lured into the grounds of the Balvenie Distillery by the grand gardens and friendly 'visitors' signs. Unfortunately, just when we got in sight of said Distillery, we also got in sight of a rather unnecessarily aggressive sign that indicated that we should not proceed any further without a booking. Fine.
Thankfully it wasn't much further to Glenfiddich - an incredibly welcoming alternative! The buildings were quaint and spread out like a village, and we half expected to see oompa loompas emerging to greet us. No oompa loompas, but they did have delicious soup while we waited for our tour. The guide was an elderly lady with a quirky sense of humour and just a hint of green in her white hair. We all put our noses to the test and worked out the differences between bourbon barrels and sherry barrels - quite a marked distinction! At the tastings, we all discovered that we like Glendfiddich (and Belinda wondered why Pat had never introduced this to her).
We then took a rather convoluted route to Balvenie Castle, via some hairy coos (which intimidated Neville, but were more than happy to pose for Belinda). The castle was covered in scaffolding, and was not as impressive as others we had seen so we moved on.
And the rain moved in - and stayed in! Well, we didn't buy raincoats for nothing, and now we got to put them to good use. Through sludge and mud and nettles we climbed uphill but oh the views! Spectacular. We then approached a forest which apparently looked like something out of Harry Potter. We half expected to be eaten by a giant spider but the closest we got was nearly stepping on huge slugs. After the forest came what seemed to be the longest mile ever, and then we had arrived in Aberlour. We set a cracking pace for the final 2 miles - by then we were feeling a bit tired and hungry, and we made it back to our hotel in a record 35 minutes.
But when we arrived at our hotel, there were no tables available for dinner. All reserved. Despite the fact our tour information stated that this hotel didn't take reservations. Hmph. We walked up the road to the other hotel in town - kitchen closed. Not even any crisps! Waaaaaah! Looked like we would have to go to Aberlour. I went back to eat a Walker's shortbread biscuit before my hunger got out of control, but then we discovered we COULD have a table if we waited 15 minutes. Done! We devoured our meals, and gave our weary legs a rest

Posted by Buccas 14:09 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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