November 2017

Tullibardine Distillery, Blackford, Perthshire, Scotland

My pair of trips to Perthshire in the past year afforded me time to visit distilleries that had managed to elude me. Chief among them was Tullibardine distillery, another of Scotland’s doughty distilleries that has withstood the trials of time, soldiering on despite the merry-go-round of owners and consumers’ vacillating tastes. If Tullibardine single malt isn’t familiar to you, there’s good reason: Throughout the 20th century Tullibardine’s whisky was destined primarily for blending, and the distillery was eventually mothballed in the 1990s, its stock left to age in barrels of perhaps questionable quality. But like many other Scottish distilleries, Tullibardine’s tale mirrors the myth of the Phoenix… Read more...

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Birding at Handa Island, Sutherland, Scotland

One of the first realizations upon joining the North Coast 500 is the sheer breadth of excursions at your fingertips. Ruined castles, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, windswept heath, lonely islands, magnificent hikes, and some of the best open-road, big-sky driving are part and parcel of Scotland’s most northwesterly driving tour. Neither a vacation nor a lifetime is enough to see everything on this massive circuit, but with careful planning and a discerning eye you can fill your days with the best northwest Scotland has to offer, Handa Island, the subject of today’s post, among them. Handa Island wasn’t on my radar before we took to the North Coast 500. As is typical of any travel around Scotland, the people I met filled me with ideas… Read more...

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Summer’s grip slips from the world’s northern rim. Standing on an archaic emerald archipelago as the day, packed beneath colorless clouds, suddenly burns with vespertine brilliance. Blades of equinoctial light slash the overcast sky into blue ribbons and send black shades stretching from Brodgar’s obstinate stones. A golden pall falls upon the Ness of Brodgar, and the wind, feeling its impotence, disappears like the last bedeviling sorrows scrabbling for our strands.

Salt Knowe rises west of the standing stones, a mound curious for its height and apparent lack of purpose. As I turn toward the season’s parting kiss, that purpose appears stark. Read more...

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The Orkney Distillery under construction, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Long ago, the vikings sailed the seas by line of sight, naming land masses, bays, and promontories by their physical appearance so that anyone could navigate the wild oceans to distant lands. In Orkney, a land with deep Norse roots, this system is readily apparent the moment you peer at a map of that northern Scottish archipelago: Deerness (a deer-shaped headland), Hamnavoe (safe harbor), and Kirkwall (church bay) appear amongst many other names. Such is the tale Stephen Kemp, founder of The Orkney Distillery, told me as we explored The Orkney Distillery’s construction site along the Bay of Kirkwall. I caught wind of The Orkney Distillery earlier this year during my stint working at Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire. Read more...

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Pre-dinner canapes and wine at Knockendarroch Hotel, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

Last autumn I had the opportunity to stay in Pitlochry at Knockendarroch Hotel, a place that had long been on my radar. Struan Lothian, the man behind Knockendarroch, managed the Kylesku Hotel and Torrdarach HouseĀ once upon a time, and my stay at the latter five years ago was a highlight of the trip. My stay at Knockendarroch was similarly excellent, and as part of it I had a chance to experience dinner at the small hotel.

Dinner at Knockendarroch Hotel worked out perfectly as it was my first day of the trip and I usually don’t like having to seek out restaurants when I’m jet-lagged and grumpy. Whatever grumpiness I had was soon to be dispelled… Read more...

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