Aberdeen and Dufftown
May 10-15, 2014
This is Part 2 of my trip to Scotland. This is Part
Before I get started, I wanted to include this picture of a Titian
painting I'd taken at the Scottish
National Gallery in Edinburgh - I'd forgotten it in Part
1. I just like how it looks - Titian like BIG paintings.
Larry picked us up at the train station and took us to the place
he shares with his girlfriend, Pam. In the morning, it was off to
I don't know how it worked in olden times, but if I was confronted
by a castle, high on a cliff, accessible by just a narrow spit of
land, I'd put 20 guys to close off the narrow spit and call it good.
Things HAD to be different back then, because a lot of the castles
we saw did not have commanding views of the countryside.
I needed to take a side trip and dip my finger in the cold North
Sea. Yes, it was very cold. It was also pissing down rain that day,
so even the air was cold.
We took dozens of pictures of the ruins of Donnottar. I really
liked this one of Larry, Jim, and Pam, down in the bowels.
is another castle that had to look different back in the day - gunpowder
would have changed everything. Glamis is effing BEAUTIFUL.
You are forbidden from taking pictures inside Glamis, so I was
tricky and took this shot while we were in a little chapel. Larry,
of course whispered "What are you doing!?!" The ceiling
is pretty cool, don't you think? Also, there is supposed to be a
ghost that inhabits this room, but she must have been busy that
day, washing her sheets or something.
The next castle was Edzell, home of Jim's ancestors, the Lindsays.
The Lindsays were intertwined with Glamis castle as well. Here's
a snippet from the legend of the Monster
of Glamis in Wikipedia: "The legend of the monster may
have been inspired by the true story of the Ogilvies.
Somewhere in the 16-foot-thick (4.9 m) walls is the famous room
of skulls, where the Ogilvie family, who sought protection from
their enemies the Lindsays, were walled up to die of starvation."
Man, nobody like the Ogilvies.
Though it is a ruin, Edzell Castle is really cool. It has fantastic
gardens - you get a glimpse through the window just past Pam's shoulder.
The chimneys back in the day were huge. Santa Claus could have
come down with all his elves and he reindeer. I don't see how the
rooms were heated at all.
The next morning, we took off for Dufftown and the Whisky region
of Scotland. We began our day with what L:arry called "Huey
Lewis tossing a ball while wearing a kilt porage"
Our first distillery was Glen
Garioch. As distilleries go, they were very small - only one
still capable of distilling only 21K liters at a time. I was to
learn a lot about industrial distillation over the next couple days.
Next was off to the Spey valley, where most of the Scotch in Scotland
is made. On the way, we stopped by this stone circle (sorry, can't
find a link for it - the road signs just called it Stone Circle)
Next was Glenfiddich. The difference between single malt and blended
whisky was lost on me. Single malt is rarer (because not very many
people like it, I think, AND they make a buttload of money on blended
because . . . ) and Blended is a cash cow because they can mix up
to 40 different malts with grain alcohol.
Glenfiddich is a HUGE operation. Know what's really cool? There
is very little waste heat radiating from these pot stills. They
are each boiling 45K liters of wort, but the building is not hot.
The tasting - the best part of any Scotch Whisky tour.
We made our way to the Castleview
B&B, run by Ian. Ian is a SERIOUS fisherman - that rack-mounted
flyrod setup was new to me.
I cannot recommend this B&B enough. If you are ever going to
be near Dufftown, book a stay here.
Ian gave us a dinner reservation in the town of Huntley, and on
the way, we saw this bridge over the river Spey. I like how they
do their bridges. The water was a very dark tea color, mostly because
of the peat. We took a break and skipped stones for a bit.
Dinner was good - and expensive, like all things in Scotland.
The next morning, Ian made us all a traditional Scottish Breakfast,
complete with blood sausage. Actually, I had salmon and eggs - Ian
is a fisherman, after all.
Glenlivit is in Dufftown and is the major employer. Ian used to
work there and his wife, Betty, still does.
Ian made a couple suggestions for us for sight seeing. First on
his list was
Ballindalloch castle. This place was fantastic - if I ever go
back to Scotland, I'm going to take Keely here.
It is a working castle, still owned and - presumably lived in -
by the McPherson family. The grounds are absolutely stunning. There
were a lot of pheasants.
Jim built up a nice rapport with that female pheasant.
There was a ginormous, flat field out in front of the castle, the
urge to walk on it was irresistible.
After Ballindalloch, we went to Ian's second suggestion:
Aberlour distillery, another outstanding visit. By now, I could
give a Scotch Whisky tour all by myself, but these guys did a great
Forbidden picture of the control station for the distillation pots.
The first part of the distillation (the Head) is poisonous Methanol
and other volitiles, it is boiled off and further processed for
whatever products they can get. The middle is the good bit, and
they boil it to where the resulting distillate is ~65% Ethanol.
They take the last bit - the Tail, and add it to the next batch
of wort to both quickly (and cheaply) raise the temperature and
extract any remaining alcohol. It's all managed right here.
For tasting, they give you 6 samples - including the 'low wines'
from the first distillation up through a single malt that had been
aged 15 years. Good stuff.
The next day was back to Aberdeen where Larry took us to Crathes
castle. It was here I got an idea of the real scale of what
it meant when a king granted lands and titles. The lands belonging
to this Laird extended 80 miles to the south and 40 miles to the
north. There used to be a 2 story high wall enclosing the area around
the castle so the villagers and such could seek protection when
some other Laird thought to go a reaving.
The grounds were . . . just excellent. This is the view of the
backside of the castle, and they really love their gardens in Scotland.
One thing you never see on TV is that in real life, every inch
of the interior of the castle was decorated - tapestries and frescos
on the walls to paintings on the ceiling If you ever get a chance,
go see Crathes castle.
Back to Aberdeen to round out our last day. I wanted to see the
Maritime Museum, but we probably could have skipped it. Aberdeen
is an oil town and they don't give two hoots about their seafaring
unless it relates to oil. Prior to the discovery of the North Sea
Oil, Aberdeen existed only as a fishing town - yet this is the only
mention of their fishing past.
Larry took us on an abbreviated pub crawl - a pint in 4 pubs.
Micro-brewing is just starting in Scotland, and we stopped that
the BrewDog Bar of
Aberdeen. If I'd have woken up there, I'd have thought I was
in Portland, except for the sign in the bathroom.
After the pubs, Larry showed us some sights in Aberdeen. This impressive
bit of architecture is Marischal
College, right downtown.
And in front of Marischal College is a statue of Robert
the Bruce, holding a piece of paper that probably says "This
coupon entitles the bearer to one unified kingdom in Scotland."
Just down the way, standing 20ft high, is the statue of William
Wallace, played by Mel Gibson before he went crazy. What's important
here is what Billy is point towards:
His Majesty's Theater, where we saw our last sight of our Scottish
a play called Horrible
Histories Barmy Britain - all the blood and guts without any
of the boring bits. 4 actors (3 men, one woman) act out the history
of the British Empire and let me tell you, you haven't lived until
you've seen a little fat man dressed as Queen Victoria rap and breakdance
across a stage.
And just like that, it was "Home again, home again, jiggity
jig." I hope you enjoyed the writeup.