I woke to find that Jacqueline had been up and about for a few hours prior. Unable to sleep, she had been to climb over the ropes course at the hostel, and had gone for a short run down to the valley to see if she could see a wild deer. Slowly, Krittika, Annalise and I woke up too and packed everything away. Jacqueline and I went to find the owner to pay the tab, having arrived after check-in had closed the night before. When we eventually did find the guy, dressed up as a full-on bird watcher, he insisted that we’d already paid in full online.
We asked him for any nearby recommendations, and he suggested walking up the trail to the pass at An Lairig. So we gathered together, and set off across the river and up the hill. The first part of the trail followed alongside the Coire Lairige, a small brook that reached up the gully. The road was farmland, so for much of the trail we were led by a small group of sheep stranded on one side of the brook from the rest of their flock.
We reached a stile and the sheep left us. Now we were walking through open fields. The route we were following was part of the Cateran trail, a walking trail which loops around the countryside around Perth and Kinross. According to the signpost, the particular section we were following had once been marched across by armies during the Jacobite rebellion.
The section we walked was actually the highest section on the trail, and the path climbed steeply through the last few hundred metres or so. The top kept teasing us, as it constantly appeared closer than it actually was. Once we finally made it to the pass, the view opened up into the Allt Doire nan Eun valley and woods beyond. It was spectacular. We stopped briefly for a bit of food. Krittika and Annalise headed back down the pass, but Jacqueline and I sprinted up the hill out of the saddle to get to the top of the ridge line, partially for a sense of completeness, and partly just to expend some energy. We skipped down the mountain and rejoined the other two. Before long, we were back at the car, heading off for our final Scottish adventure.
We drove out of the Spittal of Glenshee along the main road, but turned through a number of minor back roads to get to our target destination: the Edradour whisky distillery on the outskirts of Pitlochry. Going to a whisky distillery was something that Krittika in particular had been keen on the entire trip, and this was her chosen destination. We arrived in the late morning, but only after a nervous encounter with a large coach coming back up the narrow road to the distillery itself.
The Edradour distillery markets itself as the smallest such distillery in Scotland. Built around a small creek, there were only a handful of old buildings at the venue, all still in use in producing alcohol. Each was beautifully presented with flowers and a white picket fence, with the constant rushing of the water in the background and the wafting smell of the brew everpresent.
We booked onto a tour of the distillery at the main shopfront, and were instructed to head up to the tasting rooms to meet with our tour. Our tour guide, kilt and all, arrived to bring us and another half-dozen people around the distillery. At first, he took us up to the old kiln building, which was now no longer used in the production of whisky. He introduced us to the two main varieties of single malt whiskies produced at the distillery. The Edradour was the main product, an unpeated whisky which meant that the barley is dried with hot air. The Ballechin was a peated whisky, with a smokey flavour dried over a flame. Also for tasting was a syrupy crème liqueur, made with the Edradour whisky.
He played us a short video which explained the history and function of the distillery, after which we got to keep the tasting glasses. He then showed us to the warehouse, where the whiskies are stored for at least ten years. Our guide explained to us the importance of the second hand wooden barrels to the flavour of the whisky. The flavour of the original drink, be it gin, bourbon, wine or something more exotic, is kept in the wood of the barrel and infused into the whisky over the decade. Some of the barrels in the warehouse were multiple decades old, still yet to be tapped and drunk. The smell inside was incredibly strong, it was an amazing sensory experience.
Finally, our guide took us to the stills, where the whisky is actually produced and distilled. He explained the process to us, about how they used the local glacial melt creek water, and how they got the right alcohol content in each cask. It was fascinating to see the chemistry on an industrial, but still centuries old, scale. We thanked our guide, and went back to the tasting house. We ended up getting some tea because it came with free mugs. Krittika wanted to get a unique souvenir bottle, and after much browsing, debate and a little taste test, she decided on one of the experimental blends.
We left Edradour and headed back towards Edinburgh, looking for lunch on the way. For the most part, we were driving down the main highway to the town of Dunkeld. It was a small village, with only a few stores. I went straight to the bakery, sorely missing good pastry options in Cambridge. I also picked up some local produce to snack on later.
Most of the rest of the day was spent driving down the motorway back to Edinburgh. Of note was crossing the Forth estuary and seeing the famous Forth rail bridge. For much of the car journey, we had been ranking the many small stone bridges on our route, so in comparison the Forth bridge received somewhat mixed reviews, but still a marvellous sight.
The last bit of the journey was a somewhat busy drive through the busy streets of Edinburgh back to the railway station to return the hire car. We managed to find a petrol station near the centre of town so as to return the car with a full tank. The problem was that there were many pedestrains and confusingly laid out roads in the centre of town, making it a somewhat stressful drive in, but we made it safe and sound.
With still a few hours before our train was due to leave, we went out to find some food. We ended up getting a bunch of fast food from a narrow pedestrian street near the railway station, and stopped off at a pub for a quick drink. Before long, we were on the train again. Sitting together, we did some work, played some games and compared notes on our trip. Most of the journey was in the dark, so there wasn’t much to look at out the window. Our train took us all the way to Stevenage, where it was a short wait for the train back up to Cambridge. Arriving after midnight, we recovered our bikes from the bike park and headed home once again, another exciting trip completed.