Thoughts on the Isle of Skye

As a tour guide there are many inevitable locations one ends up visiting again and again. I honestly do not mind because Scotland’s weather is so changeable that it will always be different. Scotland really never does get boring, but over the years the number of people visiting Scotland’s amazing beauty has increased dramatically. This in turn has created some hotspots, such as Loch Ness or the Isle of Skye.

I may be a tour guide but that does not make me a fan of massive crowds trampeling their way to the fairy pools on Skye.

I am just about to visit the Isle of Skye again with some guests and what I have tried to communicate to my clients over the years is to take a little time with your locations. This time we will spend two nights on Skye and were lucky enough to find accommodation.

Two nights is not a long stay but it is long enough to seek nice enough spells of weather to take in the breath-taking landscapes of Skye and embracd the outdoors, to mingle with the locals, to experience some local cousine and to actually enjoy your stay rather than just passing by.

Look at the pictures below taken at vist back in April this year. There is sooo much so see & experience!

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Nature & Whisky
Views north of Broadford
Rubna nam Braithearn
North of Portree
North-west of the Old Man of Storr
Lower Breakish\
Wee lamb on Skye
Sunset Harrapool
Fairy Glen
Beinn na Caillich

Tasting Glendronach -very belated

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Glndronach Whisky Distillery. I bought their 21 year old:

I bought it on advise of the distillery staff members and a valued whisky friend of mine. When I finally got around to sampling it last week I was blown away both by its complexity and smoothness. It truly is one of those whiskies you need to nestle in with and give it a few hours to fully appreciate it and you only need a small amount.

I have shared it since with a few friends who all really enjoyed.

I was very lucky to be able to get two wee tasters of Glendronach’s handfills as I -obviously- could not do so during my visit as I was as per usual driving.

This Olorosso Pucheon at 58.8 % is stunningly smooth and not really that sweet but comes across very sherried and brings with it a heartwarming mouth-feel.

Handfill number two,a PX Puncheon, at 61.6% is surprinsingly stronger, not too sweet either and is a real explosion of flavours in your mouth. It feels somewhat lighter as in the density of the liquid itself:

I will be back in due course and intend to buy one of them (if still available) but I really struggle to make up my mind. They are, as most, of what Glendronach produces really very nice whikies.

Have you tried any of these? If so tell me what you think…

Whisky distilleries visited in 2024 till now

As I have a genuine love for for uisge beatha- gaelic for the water of life = whisky I do not necessarily require customers to visit distilleries. Back in February I went with my better half to a soothing visit of Skye, Harris & Lewis. At Abhainn Dearg it felt like owner Marko had just opened the place for the two of us. The Isle of Harris Distillery was even closed for some reservations but we had brought our own supply of the gorgeous Hearach. I love both their whisky but do favour Abhainn Dearg’s expressions.

In March Fife Whisky Festival was another welcome break to sample some good spirits and we had the chance to attend Woodrow of Edinburgh’s tasting and I fell truely in love with his Bunnahabhain 16:

A tour of the NC500 -this time with a bunch of lovely clients from Germany- got me to visit The Speyside Cooperage, GlenAllachie,the wee Dornoch Whisky Distillery, Glenmorangie, Brora, Clynelish, Singelton, Wolfburn, Balblair, Edradour (which, sadly, still remains closed to the public since Covid). We even went to sample some Rockrose Gin at the Dunet Bay Distillery and last but not least nipped into the Glengoyne on the back back to the airport.

Gin still remains somewhat of a closed book to me (maybe just as well?) but I truly enjoy Persie’s Spaniel Gin.

Often the Diageo whisky distilleries are somewhat frowned upon but I have to say they all still very much sport their own characters – look at Dalwhinnie or Talisker for one and Diageo does provide an amazing whisky experience in each of their distilleries and- not to forget- their staff are enthusiatic, friendly and much fun to be with.

I should also add while travelling the NC500 we did visit many, many other sites, besides the whisky distilleries.

Not much later and again on the way with some lovely Germans we opted to visit Auchentoshan, which is a lovely distillery and quite special due to their tripple distilling (like Springbank!). They were, however, faced with some sort of staff shortage, slightly overbooked and for this tour and had that one person who could not stop asking questions. I felt a little sorry for our tour guide and -as the tour was in English/Glaswegian- and not the easiest to understand for my German guests.

I went off and did a few none whisky related tours and revisited Glengoyne, Lindores and Holyrood Distillery. Lindores are pretty much my neighnours and one of my go to whiskies next to another fabulous neighbour: Daftmill (sadly again not open to the public). Holyrood Distillery sells the flavoured new make spirit which is an odd but interesting experience.

I then had another tour with some Swiss people to Arran, Campbeltown and Speyside, starting with the newly re-opened Rosebank, followed by Lagg & Lochranza, Springbank, Kilkerran, Cadenhead & GlenScotia and then over to Speyside with GlenAllachie, Dalwhinnie (again), Benromach, GlenMoray, Glendornach. Benromach and Glendornach are both distilleries I adore visiting as they are that little bit less busy, have amazing staff members and even better whisky.

The attentative reader will have noticed that I have clearly been missing out on my faviourite of all whisky regions: Islay! Bear with me it will come in due course.

Which are your favourite distilleries and/or whiskies and why?

Do you have whisky shops you love? I do and it is Luvians (both in St Andrews and Cupar)

Do you have preferred “whisky” places to stay? I love the Speyside Hotel (Ghillies bar & food) and the Highlander Inn (among others)

A wee whisky taster for a six day whisky tour… what to take?

On Monday I take some lovely guests to Arran, Campbeltown and Speyside for six days. So, what to take for a wee taster? Here is my first collection:

Something we will not be able to visit and/or drink…

For Cambeltown I took my favourite GlenScotia 11 years old special edition:

We will be missing both the Lowlands and Islay. For the Lowlands I opted to bring a along my neighbours’ Lindores Abbey. Their standard expression is a very likeable and smooth dram. I have recently fallen in love with their Sherry Butt at 49.4% which I sadly finished and brought instead a Sherry at cask strength 61.4% which I am sure will be equally devive.

The other lowland is another of my favourites even though I am a peat head really: Daftmill 15. Daftmill is a small farm distillery with quite a small but amazingly delightful output. I would have a Daftmill over MacAllan any time.

From Islay I present the Bunnahabhain 12, which is their standard expression but this one is bottled at cask strength. The same spirit matured and bottled by Woodrow of Edinburgh will add more Islay flavour.

I also got my hands onto the inaugural release of the long awaited Jim McEwan Ardnahoe, which again is in my opinion a very good dram.

Turning our focus to Speyside now: Craigellachie is sadly not open to the public so I took along their 13 year old. Balvenie is a very small distillery and they do tours but you need to book them well in advance. We will miss it this time around. So my remaining three whiskies from Speyside are all peated: Balvenie 14, Ballantruan and an 18 year old Caperdonich (a distilery which no longer exists and one which had links both to Glen Grant “2” and Glenlivet). Balvenie runs a peat week before they close down the distillery for the annual “deep clean”. Ballantruan has always beeen heavily peated just to state not all Speyside is smooth and light.

Turning our focus to the Highlands now and lets just briefly stay on the mainland, where on the remote peninsula of Movern in Drimmin’ to be precise you can find an amazingly new women led venture called NcNean. The name comes from the Gaelic Neachneohain which litteraly means the queen of spirit and that she is. The distillery is a B-corb and has a zero carbon footprint. It is also well worth the rather long drive to visit. If you are touring distilleries you can add Ardnamurchan and Tobermory on Mull.

Staying north and in the Highlands but onto the outer hebrideas now: Lewis with Abhainn Dearg (the red river) and Harris with the gorgeous Hearach, both relatively new ventures and Abhainn Dearg very clearly sticking to the traditional island techniques:

Abhaiin Dearg, small, traditional and some amazing drams

Finally, last comes a bottling from the Scottish Malt Wisky Society at cask strength (always) with a funniy name: “Gummidge VS Puswash”, only the number gives away the distillery. 66 it is on this bottle which is and Ardmore (SMWS codes).

This is just one example of what you may get to try when you join me for a whisky tour, or even any other tour, that is, if you would like to try a wee dram.

What do you think? Is there something important missing? Have you got favourites you would add? Get in touch!

The ULEZ saga part 2

If you have read my previous post (ULEZ saga) you will remember I bought a ULEZ compliant vehicle and put it on private plates which made it – interestlingly enough – not compliant.

Mercedes V220 ULEZ compliant on second attempt

I eventually received a Euro Status letter from my manufacturer for the price of £35 advising me that it is a common occurance that private plates are not updated (if you recently put a private plate on you better check here: ULEZ Scotland checker or UK ULEZ checker or London Transport Checker.

You will need to update you V5 document at DVLA. I tried and as person not owning a UK passport (why passport and not driving license I wonder?) I needed to enter the ID document I used when I applied for my permanent UK Residency. This was my ID card (which is no longer a valid document in post-Brexit UK). I promptly got kicked out and ended up begging every LEZ authority in Scotland to update my files. Edinburgh was kind enough to do so and now my compliant ULEZ is actually ULEZ compliant.

I do still wonder why this country is so very good in creating rules which are impossible to adhere to.

Have you had issues? Please get in touch and tell me!

My favourite 2024 whiskies so far

Early in the year I ventured off to Lewis and Harris to visit both Abhainn Dearg and Hearach Distilleries. I had already fallen in love with both their standard expressions and was totally blown away by the cask strength Abhainn Dearg. I am not usually a cask strength lover, but here we are:

The Fife Whisky Festival in Cupar allowed me to take home one of Woodrow’s Bunnahabhain which I truly adore:

As I am mad about Bunnahabhainn I also bought this and teamed it up with teh Woodrow and one of the alltime best expressions of Bruichladdich’s Black Art.

Almost as much as I like Bunnahabhainn I am daft about the Dafties and have always some stashed. If you have been on a whisky tour with me you very likely will have tried one (next to my beloved NcNean of course). Some of you even have been lucky enough to open one of those bottles. If you do not know about Daftmill. You are missing out big time.

I also emptied my Lindores Abbey sherry to replace it very quickly in the lovely shop in Anstruther, who knew?

Last but not least I got my hand sand tastebuds onto the inauguaral Ardnahoe, which is much loved by me and you can certainly taste the Jim McEwan‘s influence.

What has your whisky journey been like in 2024? Tell me!!!

Also, I have been enjoying playing with the Bevvy app. I had intended to put all the bottles up but not all are available, here are a few and the Black Art 4.1 even got tasting notes from Charles MacLean.

The ULEZ saga

Since 2021 I have tried and failed to see if I could integrate an electric vehicle to my business model, because ULEZ got introduced in Glasgow last year and is now live in Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, too. I finally bought a ULEZ compliant Diesel vehicle. It cost me double of what I usually spend on a replacement car and it may have meant the end of Starfish Travel as I also had issues securing a loan. Fortunately I could raise those funds privately.

Euro 6 ULEX Compliant or not?

I sold my perfectly usable previous vehicle at a loss BUT I thought I was sorted. Being German I try hard to adhere to the rules. Until a few weeks ago I received a fine from Glasgow City Council for driving through ULEZ in a non-compliant vehicle.

I used the ULEZ compliance checker and strangely my registration was non-compliant. We had checked it previously and it was compliant. The only thing which changed was the registration as we put a private plate on the car. I checked again with the old registration and, indeed, that was compliant.

I appealed against the charge, supplying both V5 documents clearly showing the same VIN and engine number but was told I needed a Certificate of Conformity (COC) from my manufacturer.

I duly phoned Mercedes who raised w a job and told me it would take 3 weeks, which took me beyond Glasgow City Council’s deadline.

Today, I received a sms from Mercedes Benz informing me that they would be unable to supply a COC as the vehicle was not a recall. I have spoken to a lot of Mercedes staff members until I finally found out that I could request a “Euro Status Letter”. I did for the fee of £30 (half the fine) but it was still cheaper than the COC at £216.

Mercedes has on numerous occassions confirmed that this vehicle has a Euro 6 and is compliant. May I add, that the German equivanlent to a V5 simply states which Euro the vehicle is.

Has this happed to you or something similar? Perhabs we should all get together?

John Rebus/Ian Rankins’ Edinburgh

BBC Rebus Series trailer

Have you had a chance to watch the “new” Rebus on BBC iplayer, yet?

I loved the first TV series with Ken Stott (see below) but more than that I have been an Ian Rankin fan for a very long time and have read all his books. I loved them especially when I was living abroad missing Scotland, missing Edinburgh.

Ken Stott as Rebus

The story lines of Ian Rankin are cripping and Edinburgh is such a fabulous backdrop for any television drama.

I have binge watched this one and may need to watch it again paying more attention to all those fabulous locations. Here are some reported by The Scotsman.

Back in the days of the first series, Ian Rankin had created an app on his Edinburgh which lead me on many occassions to take my guests around some of them. In one case I had some Canadian Rebus fans, with whom I visited the Oxbar only to bump into Ian Rankin himself. It certainly made their day (and mine)!

If you are interested in exploring Edinburgh in the footsteps of inspector Rebus get in touch:


The Isle of Skye end of April 2024

Lower Breakish

In the last week of April I made my way over to the Isle Skye on my own to attend the Heal Scotland Festival in Broadford and to spend some extra days roaming around the island.

As Skye is such a popular destination I am quite often a little hesitant if my clients want to go, especially if this is intended for an afternoon only.

I am in full agreement that Skye is amazing and has so many unqiue places to visit and explore, but that takes -in my opinion- a little lonegr than a day.

Here is why, the Isle of Skye has a variety of very unique landscapes and rock formations, such as the Fairy Glen, Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr to name some of the better known ones, but it is, wherever you turn just jaw-droppingly gorgeous, especially if you happen to get a spell of sunshine.

Fairy Glen
Beinn na Caillich

Besides this you can discover a few dinosaur prints and get to see some more in the little Staffin Museum whose founder, Dougald Ross,discovered some dinosaur prints as a sixteen year old but was not believed initially. A fascinating place to visit with enthusiastic volunteers full of knwolegde.

Staffin Dinosaur Museum

If you take your time there is amble opportunity to walk, hike, run or even cycle (though I highly recommend styaing off the main roads) and have some seriously good food:

Harbour Restaurant’s Slow roast lamb in rosemary, apricots and prunes
Harbour Restaurant roats apples

One of my alltime favourites is the little Harbour restaurant in Broadford, where Murdo is the most knowledgable and elegant waiter and Christna not only combines Scottish locals with her meditaranian background but also exhbits her wonderful paintings.

There are many more amazing places to explore all the goods Scotland has to offer on Skye, get in touch to fine out more even if you do not want to book a tour with me. I amalways happy to share my knowledge.


Visiting Scotland? Where would you like to stay?

Scotland has some fanstastic accommodations to offer and can pretty much serve any budget.

I often conduct multiple day tours and not all of the accommodations my guests choose are within my own budget.

For example if my guests opt for the gorgeous and curiously remote The Torridon it is sadly not feasible for me to stay there. I opt for an equally enchanting visit to the Tigh An Eilean, which also offers the most amazing seafood.

For myself I am quite happy to stay in a youth hostel and trust me some are at the very best locations, besides you get to meet more interesting people than in your usual hotels.

View from my room in the hostel at Braodfort, Isle of Skye

I personally also love staying in cabins as they allow me to practice my morning yoga outside:

The Loft cabin’s in Moray
The Loft
The Gather near Kennacraig/ Tarbert
The Gather Clamping pod view

Other quirky options are always bothies or some private AirB&B’s, for example I really adored the Soroba Farm Cottage bothy. It was so cosy and the hosts were lovely. You really get to know the locals staying in places like this.

Some of the smaller and often less expensive hotels can be the most amazing fun, such as The Bandstand in Nairn which even hosted a music festival while I stayed. It was amazing:

These are only some examples I have stayed in very many places over the years and had the opportunity to validate some of the posher places my guests stayed in.

Very much acclaimed recently on televison (BBC) and rightously so is The Broch on Harris and there are also many castles which have been turned into hotels.

If people are asking me for recommendations I will always try to assemble quite a variety of different styles, because if you are coming to Scotland you do want to meet the locals- everywhere!

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