Driving from Elgin to Pitlochry
Elgin – Hunting for Whisky
Elgin is the proud locale of Gordon & MacPhail. From their website:
Located in the north-east of Scotland in the heart of the world famous whisky producing region of Speyside, Gordon and MacPhail is an independent family owned and managed firm which has been bottling Single Malt Whiskies for over 115 years.
Since they bottle their own Whisky, the potential for finding some extra-special, maybe even unique item was pretty strong. So we decided to swing by their store before driving out to the Craighorns and Dalwhinnie Distillery. The store opened at 9:00, and we got there at 9:01. Unfortunately, laws in Scotland forbid shops to sell alcohol before 10:00, so we had an hour to kill.
We went to the “Café Écosse”, thinking that we may be served in French… Instead we heard the thickest accent of the whole trip. After ordering coffee, we were asked:
“Something something, something bla bla bla. Something something bla bla?”
I didn’t get anything. Martin just nodded. It turns out we were asked about our enjoyment of the weather.
Picture borrowed from http://www.scotlandsfoodtrail.com as it looks like I didn’t take any pictures of the store. Weird.
Back to the store, where we bought some very nice bottles. You can read about my Edradour 2002 Tokaji Matured in this post.
Unfortunately the whole Whisky hunting put us way behind schedule, and we had to drop both having lunch at the top of the Cairngorms and going to the Queen’s View in order to make Dalwhinnie Distillery and Pitlochry on time. In hindsight, I would probably drop the whisky hunting for the chance to eat lunch on the highest restaurant in Scotland. On the bright side, this gives us something to do when we return in a few years. Right?
The friendliest Scot was a Spanish guy?
On our way to Dalwhinnie, we stopped for lunch at the Tipsy Laird, where we met the friendliest Scot of them all, a Spanish dude name George (pronounced “whore-gay”), who spoke some French, proceeded to buy us beer, whisky and he even wanted to pay for our food. Soon after we arrived, the place filled up with a busload of tourists, and we had an interesting chat with the tour guide about distilleries. It seems that most tourists are not really into Whisky, so they were taken to a “cute and cheap” distillery. We made a mental note to avoid those tours, and also to avoid George who was hitting hard on our ladies. 😉
Driving to Dalwhinnie
We had to drive through the Cairngorms National Park to get to Dalwhinnie. The drive was beautiful, but it played with my sense of scale.
When you look at the previous picture, your mind may trick you into thinking that the bushes you see in the forefront are normal sized bushes, roughly 3-4 feet high. In fact, those bushes are a mere 6 inches off the ground.
That means that if you decide to stop for a pee break (Peeing behind a bush in a National Park in Scotland allows me to cross off multiple “to-dos” from my bucket list) you may have to walk 15 minutes before you can pee without seeing the car.
Eventually we made it to Dalwhinnie for a tour and a tasting. Unfortunately for us, they were out of the Dalwhinnie 29 year-old, so they had to replace it with a 36 year-old instead. What a shame.
I was slightly disappointed with Dalwhinnie. It is the first Whisky I ever tasted, so it holds a special place in my heart. I was hoping to find a distillery exclusive bottle there, but it seems that Dalwhinnie focuses mainly on their two staples, the 15yo and the 15yo DE. Even the 20yo and 36yo were not for sale at the distillery. C’est la vie.
I took a few minutes to call my dad to wish him a Happy Birthday from the highest distillery in Scotland, to which he replied: “You’re still in Scotland? I’m in front of this crappy bar here.” That’s my dad. He used to call me when I was in Switzerland to ask me if it was raining, since it was raining at home. 😉
We made one final stamp run – making our total stamps 6 and 8, enough for everyone to get a quaich – and made our way to the last B&B. We had food at the Fern Cottage Restaurant & Tea House. The food was great, except for the part where Martin had a piece of broken glass in his fish. Yikes! We turned in for the night soon after.
Pitlochry to Edinburgh
After a really good breakfast, we packed the car for the last time.
As you can see, we’re getting better at packing the car – we have more stuff than when we arrived and it looks like we have more room to spare. 😉 We quickly made our way to Edinburgh where we first drop the wives at the hotel and then dropped the car at the rental place. The rental place didn’t give me any trouble about the scratched car, as I had taken the “no deductible” package.
We spent our last afternoon in Edinburgh relaxing, doing some last minute shopping, repacking our luggage to avoid any surcharges and having a few pints on the Royal Mile. We ended the day by returning to The Doric for our last meal. It was a fantastic day.
The return of the King
Next morning, we left our friends behind – they had a later flight – and hopped on a taxi to get to the Edinburgh Airport, where we got there way too early and had to wait to drop our luggage. The flight to London was uneventful.
When we landed in London, I had a plan to make up for our Maple Leaf Lounge adventure on the way in – if you recall, they didn’t allow us to use the Lounge because we were leaving from a different terminal – so we made our way to the Lounge. I explained the situation, and after some typing on the computer the lady at the counter allowed us to use the lounge. The lounge is very cool, it has free WiFi, free food and drinks, showers and big comfy couches. As a bonus, it was hot-dog Friday. Our friends met us in the lounge and we had a few drinks. Could this day get any better?
The short answer to that question my friends is no.
If you follow me on Twitter and are my friend on Facebook, you already know that our plane was delayed four hours because of a mechanical issue. Four long hours sitting in the plane on the runway is a really long time. The flight staff was very good, and except for a few passengers (assholes), everyone took it in stride and made the best out of it.
After a while, they allowed us to use our cell phones. I was monitoring the flight status through my Air Canada App, and they kept pushing back the departure time every half hour or so.
Around 18:00 we started hoping to be “stuck” in London for the night. This would give us the chance to quickly visit and have a decent meal. Alas, they fixed the plane and we ended up taking off around 19:45 local time.
By the way, I don’t think there’s anything more stressful than being told that there’s something wrong with the hydraulics, than be updated that they are trying to fit a part from a different plane in ours but they’re not sure it’ll work, then be told that engineers are doing calculations to make sure the part is compatible only to be told we’re taking off a few minutes later. Then the pilot proceeded to test all the flaps for what seemed a very long time while taxiing to the strip.
When we took off, some passengers started clapping, but that lasted a whole 5 seconds. After the whole hydraulics situation, all the noises seemed abnormal to us. We also stayed quite low – around 8,000 feet – for quite some time while the plane would slightly bank left, then right, then climb a little, then dive. It seemed to me that the pane was tested at low altitude, just in case. We then did the same thing at 16,000 feet. about 40 minutes after taking off, we reached our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet. Flight plan was changed to save time – but not fuel I suspect.
Pilots shaved one full hour by flying in a “straight line”.
Finally, we landed at 22:00 local time, only three hours late. Made it home by 23:00. Of course I had to unpack and put away everything before going to bed.
I was back.
And thus concludes the massive recap. Thank you for reading all those crazy posts. I still have a few things about the trip to tell you, so I’m planning a few other posts: A “Distillery Edition”, where I’ll tell you all about how whisky is made and a “The difference between a trip and a vacation”. Stay tuned!
You can read all the recaps by following these links:
- Scotland Recaplet
- 1,737 Pictures
- The Loot
- Scotland Recap – Part one
- Scotland Recap – Part deux
- Scotland Recap – Part three
- Scotland Recap – Part four
- Scotland Recap – Part five
- Ode to Secret-Scotland