Easter Ross

Rogie Falls, Strathpeffer, Scotland

As my North Coast 500 journey began, I found myself speeding north and west out of Inverness along beautiful roads toward Achnasheen and Wester Ross. This is a windswept, austere stretch of driving with many beautiful lochs and hills ramping to the sky, and there are few legitimate “sights” to see beyond the spectacle of the highland countryside. I’m ok with that — in fact I prefer it — but I never pass up an opportunity to crack open my trusty and weather-beaten Collins Britain road atlas. This massive book-bound map lists all kinds of interesting diversions: Castles, ancient monuments, natural wonders, nature reserves, etc. And what did I see along this stretch of road? The subject of today’s post: The Rogie Falls. Read more...

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Chanonry Point, Black Isle

Easter Ross and especially Black Isle are no secret to Scots – many vacationing families head beyond Inverness into the quiet and beautifully pastoral reaches of these sandy, hooked peninsulas. A series of firths thrust into the eastern shore of Scotland’s far northern highlands: Beauly, Cromarty, Dornoch – each name sounding more ancient the farther north you go. Ian Rankin famously described Black Isle to me as neither black nor an isle, and his words rang true when I looked upon its rolling green hills, russet beaches, and glittering blue coastline. Pretty towns cling to Black Isle’s coastline while the interior is largely left to agriculture. Easter Ross has a different, wilder vibe, though the terrain is fairly similar. Perhaps here more than anywhere else has the fingerprint of the Picts lasted longest as forlorn stones stand sentinel against the passing ages… Read more...

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One of the many signs along the Easter Ross Pictish Trail

One of the impulses for my last trip to Scotland was to investigate the country’s mysterious Pictish past. The Picts play an important role in the novel I’m writing; they are a foundational element to the world and backstory that I’m twisting into historical fiction. We know a lot about the Scots who came over from Ireland and their Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata, but the narrative of the Picts and their cultural arc have remained elusive to historians and archaeologists for hundreds of years. We know shockingly little about the Picts, a name that derives from the Latin Picti, meaning ‘painted or tattooed people,’ beyond a handful of kings’ names and a scattering of oblique references to the people and places of Pictland from monks. Read more...

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Dalmore Distillery

As we explored Easter Ross from our base near Tain, my dad and I worked our way through the region’s cluster of distilleries. From Glenmorangie and Balblair, we proceeded to one distillery that has a lot of cachet in the United States: Dalmore. Cigar aficionados know their whisky well, but Dalmore also shines as one of the highest-end luxury whisky brands in the world. Case in point, the Dalmore Constellation Collection. It’s a range of 21 single cask whiskies from 1964-1992 that’ll run you £158,000 for a complete set. While that cost in unfathomable to me, this range will sell out.

Dalmore has fans. Voracious, zealous fans. I went to see what it was all about. Read more...

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Balblair Whisky from Edderton, Ross-shire

It feels appropriate to write about Balblair distillery after tackling Glenmorangie last week because the two distilleries, though near each other geographically, are separated by a wide gulf within the whisky industry. From volume to brand recognition to product experience, the two exist, if not on opposite poles, at least far apart from each other.

Balblair is a small highland distillery perched on the Dornoch Firth in the tiny town of Edderton north of Inverness. The landscape is hilly and forested, slashed by watery inlets and drenched by the frequent rainstorm, and it feels like the perfect place to lay down barrels of whisky to let time and the elements work their magic. Read more...

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