News and Events
The World of Whisky 15th April 2016
Life in a rural village in the West Highlands rightly has the community at its heart and this involves all the individuals, groups and clubs that work to make the community what it is.
A couple of weeks back, a number of us had a fun evening with some great craic during the dinner for the Taynuilt Highland Games. For the last few years, I have enjoyed being on the committee that organise our Games and – alarmingly perhaps – I now appear to be the current Chairman !
Some of those on the committee worked on ideas for the evening’s format and the outcome was a great success. We approached two lovely friends to help put the event together ; firstly Clare Gilbert who produced a wonderful menu all beautifully presented on the night and secondly Deirdre Henderson who came up with a carefully selected list of single malt whisky options to go with the different courses of meal. I am not a regular when it comes to taking a dram and only have a vague notion of some of those “powerful peaty Islay malts”. Well, I am happy to report that I learned quite a bit from the whole experience and those others at the dinner who were also not die-hard whisky drinkers all had at least a sniff if not a taste or two of the different malts.
I think that in rounding this off, the best I can do is to layout the menu for you to feast your eyes on and to get your taste-buds going so please enjoy……
Smoked Trout & Lime Roulade
OBAN LITTLE BAY (Flavour led) West Highland Single Malt
Goats Cheese with Caramelised Apple & Walnuts / Puy Lentil & Bacon Soup
CAOL ILA 12 yr old Islay Single Malt
MIXED BERRY SORBET
DALWHINNIE D.E. secondary maturation in Oloroso Cask (Chilled)
Lamb Shank (slow cooked) with Lemon & Thyme / Baked Cod with Citrus Herb Crust
CRAGGANMORE 12 yr old Speyside Single Malt
Rich Dark Chocolate Mousse served with Crushed Roasted Coffee Beans
LAGAVULIN D.E. secondary maturation in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask
I HOPE THAT HAS WHETTED YOUR APPETITES TO TRY ANOTHER MALT OR TWO NEXT TIME IT’S OFFERED.
PERSONALLY, THE LAGAVULIN AFTER A MOUTHFUL OF THE MOUSSE WAS A REVELATION !
Hope Springeth Eternal 17th March 2016
In recent days, the view across Loch Etive to the peaks of Ben Cruachan, Ben Starav and others has looked truly wonderful. There IS always hope and Spring is really showing signs of really taking hold. Almost got a bit too hot tackling the brambles and burning all the ivy I pulled off the garden wall yesterday – well we’re not used to it here in the West Highlands !
As Spring arrives it traditionally heralds the start of the touring season; and I was out on the road looking after a guest who takes a regular short cruise at this time of year on the Hebridean Princess. I dusted off the ‘chauffeur’s cap’ and visited the car wash and was all set.
I have worked with the Hebridean Princess for several years and look forward to continuing that relationship. Like the Princess, The Royal Scotsman has a parallel reputation for being a wonderful way to travel. I have always loved train travel so it was exciting news that the restoration of the Flying Scotsman was complete and this world famous steam locomotive would be running a series of trips up the East coast mainline between London’s King Cross station north to York and also right up to Edinburgh. Suffice to say that there are so many folk out there who are hugely nostalgic about it that almost all the advertised trips were quickly fully booked !
If you are planning a visit to Scotland this year, whether or not a cruise or a romantic rail journey is on your wish list, I shall be delighted to help you plan it.
Happy New Year 4th January 2016
After the festive gatherings of family and friends, many of the normal routines are being resumed and in a couple of days the tinsel and other decorations will be packed away for another year. Some of you may be engaging in one more celebration, burning your Christmas trees on 12th Night – I gather they’re quite keen on this in the Philippines. There are a whole variety of traditions associated with this time of year, some that have been around for centuries and some more recent. (And personally, I hope the daft retail behaviour associated with ‘Black Friday’ will NOT become a fixed event in our calendar !). I have always been a sucker for carols and love the world famous traditional service of Nine Lessons & Carols broadcast every year from Kings College in Cambridge.
Here in Scotland it is Hogmanay, the celebrations associated with the turn of the year, which we make the most of. The roots of this festival are a bit lost in the mists of time and of course have evolved but in large part it’s due to the influence of the Vikings who held sway in the North of Scotland, particularly in the Hebrides and the Shetland Islands, when they arrived in the 8th and 9th centuries. Our celebrations over the New Year are derived from their marking of the Winter Solstice or Yule. Christmas as a festival was not celebrated in Presbyterian Scotland and indeed was not recognised as a holiday until the late 1950s / early 1960s. However, now children in Scotland look forward to the arrival of Santa Claus as much as children from anywhere. Part and parcel of Hogmanay of course is the tradition of ‘ First-Footing ‘; in being the first visitor of the year to your neighbour you were to bring various gifts, including perhaps a silver coin to bless the household with prosperity and a lump of coal to put on the fire, not forgetting your whisky to share a dram. This is certainly still something you can witness, especially in rural Highland communities.
So, here’s to a healthy, prosperous and peaceful year in 2016 !
INDIAN SUMMER 29th September 2015
Well, now we are enjoying a wonderful spell of balmy, sunny days and clear, starry nights – making up for our disappointing summer. I have only a few tours left for this season, with a few months ahead, planning and reading in preparation for next year.
I had a lovely road trip yesterday, crossing part of the Trossachs via the ascents and descents of the Duke Pass and on to Loch Lomond before skirting round Glasgow and heading south-west through Ayrshire to an unusual destination in the shape of the Corsewall Lighthouse, perched on the edge of the Galloway coast, beyond Stranraer, looking towards Ireland.
On my return home to Argyll, the view below greeted me as the sun began to sink across Loch Etive. Not a bad spot to be able to call home……!
Highland Games – dates for your diary this summer 16th July 2015
The summer months see a succession of Highland Games staged throughout Scotland. These colourful festivals are a showcase for some very traditional events, which play an important role in the life of the Highlands and whose origins are rooted in the history of Clan folklore and culture.
The Games offer a unique opportunity to witness the skill of the dancers and ‘ heavies ‘ on the one hand or to hear piping of the highest order. These three aspects all of course share one thing in common from the earliest times; they are about demonstrating the prowess of the individual and indeed their Clan who was put forward by their Clan chief to compete against the champion dancers, pipers and athletes of a rival, neighbouring clan.
The ‘Heavies’ – the strong men of the games who participate in the field athletics – certainly draw the crowds, keen to watch those ready to compete in the ‘prize event’ of Tossing the Caber (a length of larch measuring just over 19 ft and weighing some 175 lb) !
The dancing and piping also evolved as a strong part of the traditional life in the Highland Regiments. The Marching tunes being an obvious example, a rallying cry leading men off to battle. At one time teams of dancers from many Highland Regiments were regular competitors at the major Games but this particular tradition is no longer a core part of regimental training and nowadays the ladies have firmly taken over in the dancing events. The athletic precision of those dancing the Sword Dance, for instance, is remarkable.
Of course most of the Highland Games offer plenty of opportunity for amateurs and visitors of all ages to have a go at running a race or competing in a variety of novelty events…… entering a team for the tug-of-war perhaps ?
Dates for your diary :
TAYNUILT HIGHLAND GAMES SAT 18TH JULY
INVERARAY HIGHLAND GAMES TUES 21ST JULY
LOCHEARNHEAD HIGHLAND GAMES SAT 25TH JULY
MULL HIGHLAND GAMES THURS 23RD JULY
ISLE OF SKYE WED 5TH AUGUST
PERTH HIGHLAND GAMES SUN 9TH AUGUST
THE ARGYLLSHIRE GATHERING (OBAN) THURS 27TH AUGUST
And rounding off the whole season is the famous Braemar Gathering, usually on the first Saturday in September, which since the Victorian period has always seen members of the Royal Family in attendance, toward the end of their summer break in residence at Balmoral on Royal Deeside.