A Taste of Scotland at the Scotch Whisky Experience

A Taste of Scotland at the Scotch Whisky Experience

On a night in December when the weather outside was frightful, I was delighted to be welcomed to the Scotch Whisky Experience, along with a group of travel bloggers for the Edinburgh Travel TweetUp (#EdinTravTweetUp).  The team there made us all very welcome, and had a few surprises for us as they prepared for the Year of Food and Drink.

Read more

Exhibition – new art from Edinburgh gravestones

It was with interest that I read this article on the local STV website this evening, about an Artist bringing life to Edinburgh’s Decaying Cemeteries, as it announced that there would be a photographic exhibition opening soon. Sleep: Historic Cemeteries of Scotland by Bob Reinhardt runs from July 30 to September 1 at Edinburgh Central Library.

Detail from Gravestone in Dean Cemetery

Detail from Gravestone in Dean Cemetery

Gravestones are not only a monument to lives gone, but in their state of decay a source of inspiration for artists, such as Frieda Oxenham whose explorations of graveyards have  influenced her quilting.  I found out about her work as she’s a contributor to blipfoto, the daily photo blog, and this has led me to spend much time looking at the inspirations she has used for her beautiful quilts.

Craigwell Cottage is situated near to Calton Cemetery (just off Waterloo Place), and next to New Calton Cemetery (entrance via Regent Road), both of which can be interesting places to visit and explore the history of Edinburgh’s people, and maybe to inspire you to find out more about your Scottish ancestry – or, like Bob Reinhardt, or Frieda Oxenham, to be inspired by the shapes and patterns of the old stones.

To walk from Craigwell Cottage to Edinburgh City Library for the Exhibition, access the Royal Mile at the Canongate via Campbell’s Close; turn right (uphill) and stay on the Royal Mile until you reach the junction with Lawnmarket/George IV Bridge.  Turn left along George IV Bridge, and the Central Library is on the right after you cross Victoria Street.

 

 

Pioneer Pilgrims – Walking the Way of St Andrews

Sometimes there are ideas which inspire you, but you don’t quite get round to it… you know the ones, often crystallised in a list of New Year Resolutions, which are forgotten by February.

One such idea, in the back of my mind for some time, since I found out about Cameron Black‘s Book “The St Andrews Way – Restoration of a Medieval Pilgrimage”, has been to undertake a long-distance walk. But not one of the sort which requires all sorts of preparation and planning, one which can be achieved in sections, perhaps as a series of day trips.

Earlier this week I was browsing the Internet looking for inspiration to inform an article which I was encouraging a colleague at the Lammermuir Festival to write about a pilgrimage from North Berwick to Cellardyke by boat. I came across an article about a pilgrimage which was due to take place on 1 July 2012, walking from St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh, to St Andrews Cathedral in Fife. I slotted the article away in my memory, thinking that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to join in. However, with the family all declaring that they were off to busy themselves in different ways, I woke thinking that maybe I just might be able to go along and achieve part of my ambition to walk a little of the way at least.

Pioneer Pilgrims sign at Eduardo Paolozzi statue, Edinburgh

Pioneer Pilgrims meet here

Cardinal Keith O'Brien at St Mary's RC Cathedral, Edinburgh

The start of the Way of St Andrews 2012 Pilgrimage

Cardinal Keith O’Brien leads the way

Cardinal Keith O’Brien leads the Pilgrimage

Inverleith Park looking towards Edinburgh Castle

Inverleith Park looking towards Edinburgh Castle

River Almond at Cramond Brig on the St Andrew's Way Pilgrimage walk

River Almond at Cramond Brig on the St Andrew's Way

The first stage follows Cycle Route 1

The first stage follows Cycle Route 1

Views towards the Forth Bridge from Dalmeny on the St Andrews Way

Views towards the Forth Bridge from Dalmeny

Forth Bridge at the end of the St Andrews Way Day 1

Forth Bridge, where I left the St Andrews Way

;

We were accompanied along the way by Huw Williams, a reporter from BBC Radio Scotland, and you can hear about the walk in this BBC News item as he interviews some of the walkers on the way. I joined the walk because of my fascination for the route between Edinburgh and St Andrews. Luckily, my local knowledge and the gentle herding by the leaders of the group meant that I made it to South Queensferry by the most direct route. Huw and some of the others in the group had to rely on Smartphone apps to get them to the end point. I hope that the ladies in the group of 6 who were aiming to complete the whole walk this week, including Bridget and Yvonne and the others, enjoy the experience and make it through to St Andrews. For me, that will have to await another time.

Post script: I’ve followed up my researches with some investigations about the Camino de Santiago, whose revival sparked the interest in reviving the Way of St Andrews. The aforementioned journalist, Huw Williams, led me to the blog of Bob Walker, who is walking the Camino de Santiago in July 2012, and writing a blog about his walk. Some friends in Edinburgh lent me a video, The Way, which my husband and I watched and really enjoyed. They also told me about their friend Gordon Davidson’s blog about his personal journey, which I’m now adding to this postscript as it is a very moving account of his journey.

Take aim – it’s time for Brave

We’ve been anticipating the arrival of Brave, the new Disney Pixar animated film, since earlier this year. Tomorrow evening, it’s the European Premiere as the closing event of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Our friend Kristi poses with Merida from Brave

Brave Movie publicity in the States

Since we heard that Visit Scotland was encouraging Scottish Tourism businesses to find ways to create a tie-in with the film, we’ve been wondering how best to achieve this from our base as a holiday cottage in the middle of Edinburgh. Aside from donning a Merida wig and offering our visitors a warm welcome when they arrive, what should we do?

Last week at the Royal Highland Show we noticed that Bartlett’s foods were offering an opportunity to visitors to their stand to try their hand at some target practice with toy crossbows and longbows, and our son was eager to have a try.

Target Practice - Brave the Movie

Target Practice - Brave the Movie

We’re heading to the premiere tomorrow night to find out what its all about – maybe this will spark some ideas for a tie-in. In the meantime, the film goes on general release here on 3 August 2012 (revised date). As Craigwell Cottage is just a short walk from the Edinburgh OMNI Centre our guests will be able to stroll over there to see it.

PS – we really enjoyed the film!

Scottish Premiere of Brave the Movie

Family visit to the Scottish Premiere of Brave the Movie

Brave the Movie - donning the 3D shades

Guessing we didn't look so cool in those 3D Glasses!

Brave Movie Stars on stage at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Stars of the Movie, Brave on stage at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh

Visiting Scotch Whisky Experience from Craigwell Cottage

Slainte Mhath!

Address: 354 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE (on left hand side as you head towards Edinburgh Castle – Telephone: 0131 550 0441

Website: http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScotchWhiskyExperience

Twitter: @ScotchWhiskyExp

Restaurant: http://www.amber-restaurant.co.uk (Telephone: 0131 477 8400)

Scotland is known the world over for its production of Scotch Whisky, which is a major export for Scotland. The main markets as of 2011 are USA, France and Singapore. (Source: BBC News)

If time is tight on your visit to Scotland and you don’t have time to visit one of the many distilleries around the country which offer tours, then a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience might prove an excellent alternative.

We have had guests at Craigwell Cottage who have come to Edinburgh to enjoy one of the Scotch Whisky Certificate Courses which are run monthly throughout the year, but you may choose to pay a visit for one of the three different tours which run frequently each day.

As a result of hearing about our guests’ experiences, and a chance meeting with Lara Dunston, a world travel blogger, I decided to pay a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience after the attraction had kindly hosted a Travel Tweetup in September 2011 and given me a couple of complimentary tickets to go on a tour.

At this point I have a confession to make.  Despite being Scottish, I don’t think I have ever sampled neat whisky more than a few times in my life, and can confirm that these times have been restricted to tastes of my Orcadian Uncle’s favourite tipple, Highland Park, or as a liqueur in the form of Drambuie, which I do like over ice.   And what’s more, I’ve committed whisky sacrilege by using up our supplies of whisky miniatures making our annual batch of mulled wine.  I feel better for these confessions – you know that any comments on the tour and the tastings are not being done from any past history of enjoying or knowing anything about whisky.

As I was going on the tour to represent the point of view of ‘ignorance of the product’, I thought it would be a good idea to bring along someone whom I know enjoys the odd dram or two.  I can tell he does because I’ve seen photographs on his daily photo blog on Blipfoto, where the subject often turns to which whisky he’s been sampling (whether a wee dram from a miniature; quaffing different samples in the pub or even taking his samples abroad and in my favourite blip of all time: a cold night on the Royal Mile).

So in early November 2011, Mr G and I set off to sample the delights of the Scotch Whisky Experience tour.  I knew that I’d selected the right man for the job when he sent me a message the night before saying that he was practising!

We arrived at the Scotch Whisky Experience a few minutes early and took the opportunity to have a little browse in the well stocked shop by the entrance.  There were plenty of gifts and cards of good quality to buy as well as whisky and whisky-related goods.  My companion became quite animated at the sight of a range of whiskies which were from the ‘Flora and Fauna’ range. He explained these were small batches of single malts released by producers who normally do not retail single malts, but usually provide the component malts for the production of blended whiskies.  Blends comprise over 90% of the global sales of whisky.

We were soon off on our tour, starting with a barrel ride where we learned about the ingredients which go into a single malt – barley, water and yeast.  We did observe that there was perhaps a missed opportunity in this area to present photographs of the beauty of the Scottish countryside where the barley is grown.

Our next stop was to learn about the different regions of production throughout Scotland, and the characteristic flavours and scents pertinent to each region.  In doing this we were able to identify which notes were most appealing to us and had the opportunity to select a sample to taste.

Mr G was soon armed with a peaty Islay malt, and I selected a floral Speyside.  We moved to the room housing the Claive Vidiz collection – the world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky, where my companion was like a wee boy in a sweetie shop as he took some of the details of this vast collection.  In fact we could quite easily have spent a lot longer in this area poring over the labels, bottles and different varieties.

We were instructed in how to taste and savour the whisky we’d selected, and I can report that the AnCnoc which I’d selected was wonderful – I’m completely won over with the idea that there is definitely a whisky to suit every palette.  However,  Mr G’s selection smelled altogether less appealing, although very distinctive.  Even from yards away his selection was reeking like a fireman’s jacket, and I had real difficulty in understanding how he could actually swallow the stuff.  But that’s the lesson learned, and a great opportunity to find out more about our national drink.

I’d definitely recommend a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience to visitors who want to understand more about whisky before making a purchase to take home, or who would be interested in whiling away a couple of hours sipping some additional samples by extending their tour – either formally, or informally in the well stocked bar of the Amber Restaurant where I could quite easily have spent the rest of the afternoon.

Other ideas to try:

Whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience