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!

Fife Whisky Festival

It is never easy to get tickets for this. Last year I managed to get tickets for the main event which is showcasing distilleries, whisky bottlers and shops. I attended with three like-minded whisky friends, which was a lot of fun.

This year I “only” managed to get tickets for the Woodrow’s of Edinburgh Masterclass. Woodrow’s of Edinburgh is a relatively new indepent bottler/blender, founded by Woody Tan about a year and a half ago.

The first bottle of their tasting was a very drinkable blend, created from 10% GlenScotia, 50% Glenord & 40% Highland Park. It was not quite my personal taste, but certainly a very good blend.

The second dram on trial was a 30 year olf Girvan Grain whisky which was very smooth indeed and will be loved by any bourbon fan.

Dram number three was a delightful 13 year old Mannochmore which brought us perfectly into Scottish Single Malt territory.

The next was right down my line as a lover of Islay whisky, a Bunnahabhain 16 matured in an Oloroso cask. Woody was so kind to let me have the rest of the bottle. So my clients will have the opportunity to sample one this season.

The exitement was certainly not over! Next we were privileged to sample a Mortlach literally just siphoned from the cask two days previously. It was a delight too!

Last dram of the day was a Williamson of Laphroaig, named after the famous female distiller Bessie Williamson. Another very complex and lovable uisge beatha. I had to finish the last three tasting samples. They were so good.

I will now need to look out to purchase tickets for next years’ Fife Whisky Festival!

If you are interested in a bespoke whisky tour in any or all of the five whisky regions, get in touch:


Cruise ship excursions from South Queensferry/Newhaven

My last two blogs were providing some ideas on visiting St Andrews and/or Edinburgh.

Today’s blog will give you some other options, some of which would tie in with a visit either to Edinburgh or St Andrews.

If you are an Outlander fan you will spot a few filming locations, if you love modern Scotland there is something in it for you too.


If your cruise ship docks at Newhaven, you are about 35 mins away from the amazing Hopetoun Estate. If you are docked at Sout Queensferry you are only 10 mins away.

The Hope family, who own the estate for 300 years, opened a big part of Hopetoun House to the public as far back as 1970. They still have volunteers who started back then. That alone says something about this wonderful place. The house is situated in the most amazing grounds.

The house dates back to 1699 when Sir William Bruce created a comfortable country house, which was completed by 1707. Only 14 years later the house was renovated by William Adam who cleverly converted it into this Versailles-like palace. Its importance was highlighted in 1822 when King George IV visited.

Nowadays the house is often used as film or wedding location and international horse trials also take place on the grounds.


Next stop could be the nearby Midhope Castle, which was Lallybroch in Outlander (Hopetoun House was Sandringham). Midhope dates back to the 15th century and one could assume that it may have fallen into disrepair as the Hope family moved into Hopetoun House. In any case by 1923 it was a ruin.

Staying a little with the Outlander trail we will visit “the ship which never sailed” Blackness Castle. This one has little interior since it was used as a prison but sits in the most beautiful spot. If you have grown hungry by this time you may want to have a wee bite at the Lobster Pot.

Mary Queen of Scots resided often at Linlithgow Palace, which again nowadays is a ruin, but the Outlander film crew was here too:

From here we turn to a much more modern Scotland with the Kelpies. The entire area was heavily involved in caol mining with union canal being the main means of transportation. Horses were used to pull the boats and in 2013 Andy Scott created these gigantic horse sculptures in honour of all the horses serving here.

Not too far away the Scottish government invested in reconnecting the Union and Caledionian canal. Instead of utilising the old 13 locks (some of which were built over) the Falkirk Wheel was constructed.

From here we travel on to the other side of the Forth to view one of the oldest coal mining areas: Culross. Due to a flood caol mining came to a halt here and in the 1950ties the palace and surrounding houses were all pretty derelict. The National Trust renovated and amd today you are presented with the cutes old town.

From here we will head back to the cruis ship. There are quite number of other attractions in this area. Depending on your travel habbits you might opt to select only a few of these locations to delve in deeply or you might go totally the other way.

To find out more get in touch:


Touring Edinburgh while your cruise ship docks at South Queensferry or Newhaven

In my last post I described some options to visit the Home of Golf, St Andrews and other parts of Fife, more precisely East Neuk’s fishing villages.

Today I would like to invite you to explore options in and around Edinburgh.

I often begin at Calton Hill, especially if it is a sunny day. From here you get a manificient overview of the old town, which was built on a vulcanic ridge. The castle on top and the Royal Mile leading all the way down to Holyrood Palace and the new Parliament. To your left you will see the other vulcabic ridge called King Arthur’s which in opposition to the Royal Mile only contains one building, a ruin of a chapel.

Alledgedly , King James V’s wife, Mary De Guise, loved to hunt he grounds of Holyrood Palace so building on the area behind the Palace and King Arthur’s Seat was prohibited.

My next stop would be the castle, which can be visited and displays the Scottish Crown Jewels. Close to it you haave the Whisky Experience, which does tours, stock a good variety of Scotch and offer a nice lunch at the Amber Restaurant . If you like some fine dining in stunning surroundings try the Witchery.

Across the street you will find Camera Obscura for a laugh. A little further down the Royal Mile you are invited to visit Gladstones Land, which depicts the exact living conditions of medieval people in the town.

Meandering down you have various options of nice pubs, such as the Duncan Brodies Tavern or the Jolly Judge. Close by is also the Writer’s Museum, which a fabulous stop too.

You could also side track to Victoria Street and Grassmarket.

In the courtyard of the city chambers you can enjoy famous people’s finger prints, such a J.K. Rowlings.

J.K. Rowlings finger prints at the city chamber

Not much further and you come across St Giles Cathedral, which is well worth a visit and you should take a look at the Thistle Chapel which, in its current form, was commissioned by James VII (of Scotland and II of England). It is the greatest honour to be part of the order of the Thistle. Scottish as it may evne the angels play the bagpipes here.

The Museum of Edinburgh and of the childhood are great places to learn more about this fantastic city and you will also get to see the Toll House and John Knox’ House.

If you love the American Series Outlander you can turn briefly right to view Jamie’s printer shop.

Before reaching Holyrood Palace you will bypass the New Parliament. Edinburgh has three of those, one built in 1936 at the bottom of Calton Hill, close to it and old school which was converted in 1975 for a referendum in the same year.

Holyrood Palace is rich in history especially surrounding Mary Queen of Scots, who spent some time here and had to endure her Italian secretary being murderd while being pregnant with James the VI (and I of England). The boodstains can still be viewed or so they say.

Form here you could decide to take a hike up King Arthur’s Seat or alternatively make your way over to New Town, which was built to relive the overcrowding of the old town. In 1766 a competition was held 26 year James Craigs’ proposals won. A loch was drained bridges were built and the New Town honoured the two kingdoms, Scotland with the Thistle Street and England with the Rose Street. Rose Street is full of lovely restaurant ans a pedestrian zone. If you enjoy Ian Rainkin’s Inspector Rebus novells you might want to frequent the Oxford Bar and see if you could meet the author there.

As you can see Edinburgh has millions things to offer. A little further away I would mention the Britannia (the Royal’s mode of transport), Leith Distillery, Roslyn Chapel and if you are into Outlander Gosford House, Craigmillar Castle, Glencorse Auld Kirk and Midhope Castle (Lallybroch).

Cruise shiop arriving at Newhaven

If you like my suggestions why get a tour curated exactly to your wishes:

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