A Scottish Odyssey: Part 1

From here it was the long drive to Scotland and the new ‘Château de Jarvo’ in Aberdeenshire where we would be based for the next few weeks. Our rental shed had started to make some strange noises raising a few concerns but nobody wanted to answer the phone at the car company so we drove on regardless. To break up the five-hour drive, we stopped at the iconic Kelpies in Falkirk for a few pictures and a bite to eat.

We arrived in mid-afternoon and settled into what would be our home for a while at North Water Bridge. The air and skies up in Scotland are clearer and some fantastic sunsets were taken in but it soon got chilly after dark, dropping below 10 on some nights, as the fire was sparked into life and the red wine flowed.

It was time to get familiar with some serious Scottish heritage and this involved visiting the local distillery at Fettercairn, just a few miles away from our base. Claiming to be one of the first distilleries in the highlands opened in 1824, Fettercairn offers one-hour tours providing a glimpse into the production of Scotland’s most famous export. There is some serious science to the distillation process, the shapes, and sizes of the stills, and the influence they have on the flavours. Unbeknown to me, most single malt Scotch is aged in Bourbon barrels which are bought from the United States. The company has planted its own oak plantation to make its own barrels in about 150 years, our guide told us. Included in the tour was a wee tasting session where we could sample a dram or three of their different aged malts. It was rude not to buy a bottle.

It was time to get into the Cairngorms National Park which was about 20 miles from our base at the cottages. Using Google Maps, we located what could be a good first trek, a small lake called Loch Brandy in the mountains. To access it we drove up a gorgeous valley to a wee town called Glenclova, parked up in the free car park, and commenced the hike.

The views across the valley as we ascended were simply stunning, like a scene out of Lord of the Rings with rolling green carpeted hills interspersed with patches of vibrant pink and purple heathers, winding rivers, and babbling brooks. The weather started to close in as we got higher and close to the loch, which seemed a lot further than it looked on the map! Finally, we reached it but with a looming shroud of low clouds, the views were not as picturesque as the ascent. A few brave souls braved the dark icy waters and went for a swim, but we decided to make our descent back into the warmth since we had no wet weather gear.

On the way back, we stopped in Edzell, the closest town to the cottages. The weather was glorious again and the place was bustling with locals enjoying it and the car boot sale on the village green. Edzell is known for its foot suspension bridge and a stony “beach” by the river North Esk.

Also close to our base was a massive scrap and salvage yard called “Steptoes” that you could spend a whole day rummaging around. I found an old clannish pewter beaker among the bric-a-brac but if you knew what you were looking for, there were some gems to be found – especially the paintings. The yard was close to St Cyrus beach so we took a walk along the virtually empty sands of this pristine spot. One thing that struck me was how clean everything was, unlike Thailand and Asia where the beaches and beauty spots are strewn with plastic and Styrofoam.

It was time to revisit Stonehaven, that quaint little touristy town up on the coast. Breakfast today was very Scottish, a massive ice cream from Aunty Betty’s, but we swerved the deep-fried Mars bar, another Stonehaven export. Stony isn’t renowned for a big sandy beach but it does have a quaint little harbor and some oldy-world shops and pubs. The weather was not with us today, however.