Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Whisky, Heylan' Coos, and Haggis

Now we leap back in time once again as I continue to regale you with tales from our Round the World trip.  When I last left you, Andy and I had climbed Alps, eaten chocolate, and seen a cow parade in Switzerland. After only 90 minutes in the air, we found ourselves in the UK. A night in Manchester, a train ride, and - tada! - we were in Edinburgh.

Now, the plan, when we originally conceptualised our trip, was to spend a few days in Edinburgh, before moving on to Aberdeen, where Andy had to present at a conference.  Though the conference started Monday, we thought the chances of him being scheduled on the first day were slim.  Well, would you believe that he was scheduled for the very first session on the very first day?  As a result, we got a bit less than 24 hours in Edinburgh.  But didn't we make the most of it!

Edinburgh was the most tourist-iest place we'd been. Red double-decker tour buses, wall to wall people, camera flashes everywhere you turned... (Not that I can complain too much, seeing how we both contributed to the mass of tourists.)

Because we had such a short visit, we didn't bother spending money to go into the things - our logic is that if you have to pay for it, you want to spend lots of time to make it value for money.  And we didn't have lots of time.  So we went to the gates of Edinburgh Castle and admired from outside.

We looked around a church. An old church. Where, like, lots of important people have sat. And lots of important weddings and funerals and stuff have been held. 

Peeked at the Castle of the Holyrood - the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

And ate dinner at the fabulously amazing Henderson's Bistro. There was seriously not a thing on this menu that I wouldn't have happily devoured.  We began the meal with a Hot Toddy, since it was bloody freezing. I couldn't say no to veggie haggis with neeps and tatties, since we were in Scotland for goodness sake!  Andy had, I believe, the Nut Burger.  For dessert, we each had cherry pie with soya cream.  All food was delicious, and I wish we had more time in Edinburgh just to come back to this restaurant.
This isn't where we ate. This is the Scottish Parliament, and some impressive bluffs nearby.

In fact, Edinburgh was the home of good food for us - our two meals both turned out to be delicious. Breakfast on Monday morning was at our accommodation, the Claymore Vegetarian Guest House. This place was comfortable, adorable, and Cathy was very friendly.  And, most importantly, breakfast was huge, and really good - quality food, and lots of it, is a winning combination.
This isn't where we stayed, but check out the blue door!

But sadly, we had to head off quickly to Aberdeen. Andy presented his paper. Then we wandered around the small city, looking at the gray, granite houses.

And the gray, granite buildings.

And the gray sky.

And William Wallace.

The food at our guest house in Aberdeen was not so good. They said 'sure we can do vegan breakfast!' when we made our booking, and then forgot about it. By the second morning they had bought soymilk, and the fruit salad was good. But basically, I ate a lot of tattie scones and baked beans.
This isn't where we stayed. This is the library.

Then, the best part of the trip: whisky. We hired a car, drove 2 hours into the heart of "Speyside", and paid a visit to a friend-of-a-friend at Glenfarclas, a family-run whisky distillery. 

We toured the place, watching barley turn into what was essentially beer.

And then into the copper stills where it becomes whisky.

Then they dump it into wooden casks, and put it in the shed for a decade, or lots of decades.  All the while, it soaks up some yummy burnt-oak flavours from the cask, and sooty-looking lichen grows on the outside of the buildings, feeding on the alcohol fumes and getting drunk.

We tasted some delicious whisky: a 10 year old, a 40 year old, and a 1961 cask strength. At about 60% alcohol, the last one needed watering down, but the 40 year old was like drinking butterscotch. We ate a giant baguette and a whole container of hummus between us afterwards, to soak up some booziness.

And then we drove down the road to Speyside Cooperage to watch some guys repair casks - not barrels, though, since they're a smaller size. These are, I think, 'hogs head' sized casks.

And we learnt lots of  fun facts about barrels. Like, did you know they can only use American oak trees, because they grow the straightest with the least knots? And they only use second-hand barrels for scotch whisky - the flavours from the sherry or bourbon goes into the flavours of the whisky and gives it a certain somethin' somethin'.  And, casks are deceptively difficult to make, but Andy and I conquered the display model anyways.

We had a quick look at Bonlivet Castle.

But I was distracted by the furry cows.

I fed this one some good grass from our side of the fence, and was rewarded with a sloppy lick.

And that was the end of our surprisingly short visit to Scotland. Definitely a place I'd like to go back to!


Millie said...

Theres its so nice for you to post these great photographs from the places you have visited. I know I'll never get to visit them but I am enjoying these countries through your eyes...thank you.

Hannah said...

I think I decided I wanted to go to Scotland when I fell (briefly) in love with the Scottish fellow who plays Oliver Wood in the first Harry Potter movie. I'm classy that way :P

Love those whiskey machine-y things! They look so wacky.

Kari said...

It looks like you packed a lot in! Scotland is somewhere I'd like to return to too - I've only been to Edinburgh and driven / trained through the surrounding areas. I think there is a lot more to explore.

DJ said...

Hurrah for Scotland! I maybe from Manchester originally but I have wholeheartedly adopted Scotland as my homeland over the last ten years and I even have a couple of kids with cute accents to prove it! :) Hope you get longer to spend here next time - and if you come in November, Historic Scotland runs a scheme offering free entry to 48 outstanding heritage attractions - including Edinburgh Castle - during the last weekend. But you'd need a warm coat and wellies, most likely... !

dreaminitvegan said...

I'm loving all of your photo's from you trip. Those furry cows are too cute! My mom's dad side of the family is Scottish, I would love to go there. Although Ireland would be cool.