Whisky & Arran

Chester

On a mission to investigate the isle of Arran in more detail for future tour options I was lucky enough to be assisted by Chester (photo above) and his his lovely owner, whisky lover and walking whisky encyclopedia, James Gillies (photo below).

For the proposed itineray CLICK HERE

We actually took two days to enjoy the island to the fullest:

On Saturday we focussed solely on whisky and left Chester on the mainland while on the next day our focus was pretty much on making the little fourlegged boy enjoy himself.

Whisky

We started in the new Lagg Whisky distillery on the very south end of the island. We had the lovely Fiona guiding us throughout the impressive building and operation. Part of the tour included a little video on the history of Arran which was displayed on the floor. The views from the distillery were amazing. Fairly quickly we were presented with the new spirit which was surprinsingly nice.

We were allowed to investigate the entire distilling process (malting excluded).

After the tour we visited the shop, bottled our own whisky and rushed off to go on a limited editions tasting at Lochranza Whisky Distillery.

We were meet by our tour guide Douglas who led us into an amazingly cosy room to start explaining the process of distilling which I really enjoyed. Apart from Douglas being a fantastic story teller the room very much invited to linger a little longer:

Lochranza boothy

Once the virtual tour including a little video was completed we entered the draming room for the real business. We got to try three private casks which were all very tasty and two more special drams Drumadroon Point and a white stag.

The draming room

The next task was to find some lovely walks for Chester and some good food & more non-alcoholic drink for ourselves.

Chester investigating Fisherman’s walk

We walked Fisherman’s walk and near Corrie. The weather was so inviting that I managed to go for a swim in the Firth of Clyde.

At the end of Fisherman’s walk you are rewarded with a lovely beach shack (Arran Botanical Spirits) where you can settle down in the shadow and cool down a little. Chester made good use of this.

Beach shack at the end of Fisherman’s walk

Little Chester was very happy dipping in and out of the water (sea water and rivers) and he was welcome to join at the beach shack and later on at the Shore. They not only had water bowls but also three dog biscuits for Chester. I am sure Chester will insist to do a return visit there.

The Shore

Chester had a good time all round and so did we . I cannot wait to return in fact.

If you are interested in visiting Arran or anywhere else in Scotland do get in touch:

Contact

Tha mi ag bruidhinn Gaidhlig… I wish

Like many people I started to learn a wee bit of Gaelic via Duolingo. It is convinient but certainly not easy. I struggle with English pronunciation as a non-native speaker and Gaelic certainly adds a challenge.

However if you travel around Scotland you cannot help but notice bi-lingual road signs or even the writing on police cars.

If you then get engaged in Scottish landscapes and place names you simply cannot escape Gaelic. Whether it is Inverness which is Inbhir Nis and means the mouth of the river Ness or places like Abercrombie -> the place where two rivers meet or the fact that in Ben Nevis Ben or Beinn in Gaelic means mountain.

I doubted whether I will ever be a fluent Gaelic speaker till I discovered this:

Asterix and Gaidhlig

My dad was a pharmacist and because he really wanted me to step into his footsteps I was made to learn Latin at school. I had little enthusiasm to learn a dead language up until my dad turned up with Asterix in Latin. This in turn enabled my to read Cicero in the original Latin. It did not, however, turn me into a pharmacist.

You can buy your very own copy of Asterix at the Scottish Bookstore. You will be happy to hear they also do Scots. Happy reading!!!

Staycation & driving

With restrictions on international travel you may have considered Scotland as your destination for the compulsory 2021 staycation.

Glenshee

Scotland has many attractions from history over castles to whisky, remoteness, amazing beaches and gorgeous nature.

Mode of transport and your tour guide

However Scotland’s roads especially up north are not exactly comfortable motorways.

So, if you fancy to explore the North Coast 500 but the thought of driving is daunting you opt opt to hire my services. I offer daily rates from £375 which includes driver fully insured & licensed vehicle for up to seven passengers, complimentary water bottles, fruit basket and if wished a wee whisky tasting.

Nc’Neach Whisky Distillery
The Vault Scottsh Malt Whisky Society, Edinburgh

If you would like to sample Scotland’s whisky, gin, beer or even wine having a driver could also be just the thing you need.

If you look for more nature and less driving you can combine your touring with walking, hiking, sea kayaking, yoga, forest bathing or even gliding.

I have lived 18 years in Scotland and though I by no means know it all I happily investigate and research to make your dream holiday come true.

The sun always shines in Scotland but if it doesn’t there are many other things to see and do….

Do get in touch 07446112672

Contact

Mindfulness & Travel

There is a quote I find very truthful:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

― Lao Tzu

If you do something you truly enjoy or are very passionate about, like travelling, you will always find yourself in the present- just enjoying yourself -really.

Fife Coastal Path

So every one of us is fully capable to practise mindfulness. However, in our daily life we often try to juggle too many things at once and we start to worry and feeling anxious whether or not we will succeed.

If you are capable in such moments to re-deploy your natural mindfulness it will help you not only to succeed in your tasks but maintaining a degree of happines while performing them, because the tasks are not you.

If this sounds too good to be true you will be happy to hear that mindfulness like fitness exercises can be practiced.

I am currently enrolled in the amazing course” Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance” by Monash University in Brisbane and one of the lecturers, Richard Chambers, produced this fabulous video:

For me this video explains crystal clear what mindfulness is and why it matters.

My personal way into mindfulness was actually let by bodily exercise, namely yoga, and preferrably power, sculpt, intense flows and above all Barre (which is maybe not even “real” yoga). I am someone who struggles to sit still so accessing mindfulness through meditation would have only caused legs that had fallen asleep and a fidgety me.

Another door into mindfulness is being in nature, which had been inprinted in me thanks to my parents.

Finally, as stated above you will find anything you are passionate about will make you be fully present in the moment. For me this has always been horse riding, once mounted I forget the world around me and it is just me and my friend, the horse.

Me & My Monkey and myself fully with each other

This website is foremost promoting the fact that I offer sightseeing tours all over Scotland but even before the current pandemic a number of people travelled by the way of “tick-the-box”. You go somewhere your digital friends have been, get out of your mode of transport and take a selfie. Don’t get me wrong I do this myself and my partner can probably barely face up to the next selfie with us kissing each other.

All I am trying to point out in this post is that travelling should be so much more: Engaging with the landscapes and people surrounding you, enjoying time to simply be, perhaps trying some forest bathing, wild swimming, walking, kayaking, hiking or even some yoga in nature.

If you are intrigued I can pretty include any or all of this into my bespoke tours.

Do get in touch:

Contact

Failte! Welcome!

When visiting Scotland you may have noticed the different dialects in different regions and perhaps -like myself- struggled to understand one or the other.

If you travel north-west you will probably have noticed bi-lingual sign-posts. Those are providing English and Gaelic place names.

St Andrews/ Cill Rìmhinn

I am based in St Andrews and the Gaelic name for it is Cill Rìmhinn. If you struggle to pronounce this, so do I. “The town was first called Muckross (boar-wood), then Kilrymont (church on the royal mount), then Kilrule (church of St Regulus) and finally St Andrews after the church of St Andrews” (Quote from Fife Coucil Gaelic language page)

If you try pronouncing Kilrymont Cill Rìmhinn does not seem so far away.

Staying local; Aberdour is Obar Dobhair and means mouth of the river.

Aberdour: Obar Dobhair

If you are looking into something more practical you could try some of these phrases

EnglishGaelicSuggested Phonetics*
Good MorningMadainn Mhathmatting vah
Good AfternoonFeasgar Mathfeskar mah
Good NightOidhche mhahtEYE-che vah
How are you?Ciamar a tha thu?Kimura ha-u
I’m fineTha gu mathha g’mah
I’m tiredTha mi sgithHAMee SKEEEE
Don’t worryNa gabh draghna gadrugh
Thank youMòran taingMAWran TANK
Table from Fife Council

I am a whisky lover and if you compare the word whisky with uisge you are close though the water of life is properly called uisge beatha.

If you wish to learn more Gaelic or Gaidhlig you could try duolingo, try the official website Learn Gaelic or just find out about your local place names “Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba

You can also watch television in Gaelic on BBC Alba or listen to the radio.

There is also a 5 year Gaelic Plan

Arisaig to Movern and add Nc’Nean

In my previous post we had stayed two nights in the Glenuig Inn (Arisaig) which we were very sad to leave but we had scheduled another night on the Drimin Estate on the Movern penisula to do our first tour of the new whisky distillery Nc’Nean. The 7000 Hectar Drimin Estate was bought over by Derek & Louise Lewis in 2003 with the aim to serve the community. Their daughter Annabel Thomas is the CEO of the rather unusual and very green Nc’Nean distillery, which gets its name from the Gaelic Neachneohain, the Queen of Spirits and a fierce protector of nature.

Like Glenuig Inn Nc’Nean aims to indeed protect nature by using organic barley, being powwered by renewable enery and recycling 99.97% of their waste.

Personally I have to admit that my way to Nc’Nean was purely based on the exquisite inaugural release which I bought after I had already experienced their aged botanical spirits which I also highly recommend.

However, before all this we had an amazing drive to Morven. We had planned to walk in the Ariundle Oak Forest, but as we were on holidays we got distracted stopped too many times and ended up walking elswhere so by the time we arrived in Strontian we felt the need for a cup of coffee and a scone which we had at the Ariundle Centre which again is a fantastically freindly place with amazing produce.

From there we had an amazing drive over to Morven.

As always there is too much to see on the way so we only just made it for our 2 pm distillery tour to Nc’Nean. Even the drive up to there is an adventure as the road is tiny and steep but very well maintained and so beautiful.

Idylic location for Nc’Nean whisky distillery

Amy welcomed us and provided a very insightful tour. We tasted a surprisingly delightful new make spirit, the botanical spirit and the 6th batch of whisky which was even better than the already amazing inaugural release. I had to buy it it was that good. We also learned a lot about the process and the engagement with the local community. Besides all this the distillery is located heavenly. The paintings on display took our interest and as per usual were locally produced by Alan B Hayman, who lives on the estate. To sober up we took a walk to the Hayman Gallery. We realised that we had seen his wonderful artwork when he was still located in Glen Lyon, Perthshire. We were warmly welcomed by the artist’s wife and actually meet the artist himself and disturbed him in his work briefly.

We eventually made it to our B&B, Achnacriche Bed and Breakfast and we made very welcome by our host, Janine. She made some amazing suggestions to what to do on the estate, thanks to her we took a sunset walk to the chapel and she is a fantastic cook!

Before dinner we had some time to spare and as it was a gorgeous day went went for a swim.

Sadly the following day we had to return home but I will leave you with some impressions from our evening walk and return journey to Fife:

Recommend what has been experienced…

I offer a nature & whisky tour in the West Highlands. The recommended hotel in Arisaig is the Glenuig Inn, which has recently changed ownership.

Glenuig Inn

I am a great believer in recommending accommodations, restaurants, whiskies, attractions I have actually experienced. Therefore me and my partner (in love and all things fun) booked ourselves for two nights into the Glenuig Inn and added a day of sea kayaking.

After a drive in the rain and being late for our booked dinner we were welcomed by Rona who immediately provided us with the option to settle in first and than return for dinner. We were quite happy to begin with dinner nonetheless and what amazing food this was. It is a small menu but the contents are of such high quality and well prepared that I would not mind eating the same dish more than once.

There were a number of other guests and the atmosphere was lovely and we really enjoyed the Glen Spean beers too.

The Inn welcomes walkers, hikers, families, motorbikers and dogs and the rooms are family friendly, nicely decorated and super clean. The emphasize to use local products even made it into soap and hand sanitizers.

After dinner we went for a walk and due to the beautiful surroundings hardly noticed it was raining.

The following day started with fresh fruit yoghurt followed by an amazing cooked breakfast, again using local produce from Ardshealach Smokehouse and eggs from the resident chickens.

It was a dark morning and windy and we were not really convinced that sea kayaking would prove to be much fun, but we were so wrong. We were picked up by Arisaig Sea Kayaking/Rock Hoppers and Ben & Cal took us to Loch Moidart which was very sheltered and once on the water the day turned into a perfect adventure which we both whole-heartedly recommend.

Castle Tioram
Ideal stop for lunch

When we approached the shore at 3 pm it began to rain but had stopped by the time we reached Glenuig Inn. We went walking before dinner to the left of the Inn and after another delicious meal right of the Inn past a camping spot we had used years ago. Up a hill we found the perfect sunset spot.

If you love nature you will definitely find it in Arisaig.

Thoughts on electric cars

After the Covid-19 pandemic we should all focus on the clima issues we are facing.

Quite some time ago we went to a Fife Council event on electric cars as taxis in Glenrothes. Back than the cars shown were not really practical due to the limited reach (mileage) and the time it took to recharge.

As my current vehicle happens to be an eight seater I did not engage further regarding the option of a electric alternative to my current Viano MPV. Not that long ago Mercedes started advertising an electric version of the Vito and I got all exited until I read the mileage 93. This even with a good infrastructure of charging points just does not seem enough.

I had obviously heard of Tesla but never considered them due to the lack of seats. However, they do produce the current Model X as seven seater and the new Model Y will also come as seven seaters. Also both of them do come with tow bars (Golfers I see you nodding).

Tesla Model S

My test vehicle was this beautiful, blue Model S today and driving it really blew my mind away. First and foremost the car is so silent, such a delight. The road handling even across Edinburgh’s potholed roads was amazing. The acceleration put my former Lotus Elise to shame and can be envied by most motorbikes. Even more amzing is the negative acceleration which again compares well with a motorbike.

The interior, storage capacity and screen are all very refined and the entire handling of the car is purely intuitive.

Bottomline I really did not want get back out (and back in my until now as comfortable considered Viano).

Both Model X & Y are currently not available and rather costly and even the two secondhand Model Xs were not cheap. However, both exceeded the 93 mile reach even five year old.

Now, let me ask you how would you feel if I could offer you a ride in a fully electric car?

Test vehicle Tesla Model S

I will go ahead and test drive some other electric vehile options and make a plan for the future….

Mental health, mindfulness, relaxation & staycations

Sunrise at St Andrews

After months on end in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic mental health has come to the forefront of attention in society in general and life has still not returned back to normal and perhaps never will. Whether this is for the worse or the better remains to be seen.

Meanwhile booking holidays abroad remains risky and holidaying at home (here in the UK) might even add to your depression if you expect sunshine.

Getting away from it all is probably more important than ever but doing so seems equally more difficult than ever.

Bench in the forest

So if you need to opt for a staycation as at least it can be guaranteed to actually happen (Covid-19 permitting) what are your options?

I offer bespoke tours (currently up to six people of one household) all over Scotland from half a day to as many days as you like. I will take care of all your bookings (if you wish), all the planning and provide worry-free travelling.

I am obviously aware that this offer is not particularily special, BUT while you can just opt to visit popular visitor attractions you can also request something quite special.

I am a Scottish resident by choice and live here because Scotland is my dream.

Garden bench at Kellie Castle near Pittenweem, Fife

I love the vastness of landscapes, the fairy-tale like character of many wee villages, the fact that places often relate to Gaelic and their names mean so much more. I love the friendliness of her people as much as the all evident story-telling. In some of the remoter places time has just stopped (and technology has not reached them). If you choose so you can go about not meeting anyone for days but if you do they will be friendly and in no way scary.

Bench near Braemar

So Scotland heavily volunteers to connect with nature and go about life in a mindful manner, even if it does rain for days on end and the midges are after you.

During my tours I share with you my love for this country and equally all the places I have grown so fond of.

If mindfulness is something you would like to try you can pretty much literally go anywhere in Scotland.

All you need to do is open your eyes and take a deep breath. If you like more guidance I can assist you with yoga if you wish.

Contact

International travellers and Covid-19 tests in St Andrews

Most travellers will be required to test upon arrival at the airport in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee . A further test is required five days later and can be done in the St Andrews Walk In Centre. From 8 am to to 2 pm you can walk to the centre and obtain a booking for the same day for a PCR test. After 3pm you can walk in and pick up up to two box of Lateral Flow Tests containing seven tests each. All of this is provided free of cahrge and should hopefully make it a lot easier to adhere to the applicable rules.