Since I spent over a decade of my life involved in retail, wholesale, and niche travel, as an owner/ operator of both a travel agency, as well as a tour operator, I have probably always enjoyed taking an in-depth look at various aspects of destinations. Over a year ago, my friend of over 40 years, Andy, and I, decided we would address one of the bucket list items we each possessed, and decided to go to Scotland for about 10 days. Since we both have always enjoyed single malt whisky (note that Scotch does not have an e before the y), and had some degree of interest in locales with considerable historic consideration, we decided that our scholarly sojourn would include lots of expressions of scotch tasting, as well as quality touring. Thus, we selected the one we took, not solely because it was that organization’s name, but because they only did somewhat small groups, and did so, in a quality, organized, detailed, in – depth manner. And, of course, if we were to drink, we were not going to drive!Scotland possesses the perfect balance of history, geographic beauty, English – speaking, friendly, and diversity (and of course the drinking) that we thought would make for the ideal trip, and we were not disappointed!
1. History: Not only does Scotland contain a rich history, but they have preserved many of their historic buildings, etc., and thus protected them so that the history could be preserved! No discussion of British, French, Italian/ Roman Empire, Irish, or Nordic history, is complete without a review of what went on in this island country. Although a member of the United Kingdom, and part of Great Britain, it maintains its unique perspective and ideology. We were quite fortunate that our guide was not only one of only 300 certified Scotish guides, but also a whisky officianado, with a somewhat unique perspective. Ronnie (the guide’s name) was Israel – born, and had lived in Scotland for 20 years. He received a Masters in Scotish history, a certification and training as a guide, and was amazingly knowledgable regarding spirits. The history of Scotland is rich and weaved into the Scotch industry, and we were make aware of how this occurred, and why.
2. Scotch whisky: We visited 17 distilleries, and sampled over 100 expressions (what I would normally refer to as samples) of a variety, from the 5 whisky regions. These include: Lowland; Highland; Speyside; Islay and Campbelltown. Islay is where most of the peated scotches come from, and although I am not a personal fan of peat, found the process extremely interesting and compelling. We got to nose, view and appreciate how our senses determine our personal preferences, and I thoroughly enjoyed sampling all neat (no ice), and savoring the flavors.
3. Caveat to travelers: Roads are often extremely narrow and winding, so it is probably better to allow a professional local to do the navigating. There are numerous roundabouts, and no roads that we Americans would consider highways. Nearly all hotels require some degree of moving your baggage upstairs, so if that is a challenge, ask and request a lowest floor accommodation in those places that you might need that. Currency is the UK Pound Sterling, so beware and ready. Nearly everywhere, credit cards are accepted, so check with your card companies, and use one without exchange fees. You need your passport, and will probably need to take a connecting flight (we flew on Aer Lingus from JFK airport in New York, to Dublin, and then onto Edinburgh, preclearing US customs in Dublin on the return flights. Very friendly people! Wear comfortable shoes! In most instances, you can be dressed casually, so don’t overpack!
We learned a lot more about Scotland than merely that Scotch Whisky has only 3 ingredients (malt; yeast and water)! If you like to drink, and you enjoy beauty and history, then take your own sojourn to Scotland!